Ground Up Exhibition
- Museums Victoria
Designed for and tested by young children, Scienceworks’ new permanent exhibition Ground Up: Building Big Ideas, Together for babies to five-year-olds provides an engaging, playful and safe experience that builds foundational skills in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) through construction-play and creative experimentation. It is a highly bespoke and unique unreal world made from real world building materials. Ground Up invites young children and adults to think, try and creatively problem solve. Experiences are designed to be intuitive, instruction-free and open-ended. Children and their carers can tinker, design, build and test with shapes, lights, blocks, and large-scale gears.
The exhibition is purposefully non-linear and divided into three broad age and activity zones. Children can move around the whole space but each zone provides experiences designed for targeted stages of development. From the beginning, spatial design considerations also included clear sightlines, inclusion of new babycare amenities, and the application of playground safety standards across the build. Materials are used honestly but in unusual ways. Exterior cladding is used as an interior surface, flooring is used on walls and ceilings, 1,376 light-up industrial switches make patterns, brushes and conveyor belts used in industrial food preparation are made into child-friendly experiences.
The experiences and materials were designed to allow children to learn through play, using their existing skills as natural born scientists. The project also sought to demystify science for adults who may see ‘knowing science’ or ‘understanding science’ as a barrier to their own enjoyment, and thus empower them as first teachers. Throughout the project consultation with educators, young children and their families helped to grow a deeper understanding of our target audience and inform, change and evolve the design process through testing and prototyping.
We worked with more than 65 specialist Victorian companies and organisations to create Ground Up.
Since opening on 4 December 2017, Ground Up has been a huge hit with visitors. Feedback reflects there is more to do, without having to ‘wait turns’ (impossible for toddlers!) and they can tell the space is built for young children. Scienceworks experienced its busiest January and February visitation on record due to the opening of Ground Up, with an increase of 23% over the preceding three years. Industry and education professionals who were consulted throughout the process are supportive of the outcome. One group, VicDeaf, is planning family events at Scienceworks as Ground Up is such an accessible space.
Text and screen-free is a particular innovation for a science and technology museum. giving relief from a world filled with information and devices.
The exhibition is divided into three broad age and activity zones – the Baby Landscape, the Tinkering Zone (18months-3yrs) and the Collaborative Zone (3-5yrs). Each zone develops skills and provides experiences designed for targeted stages of development.
To intervene in the disengagement of females in STEM-based careers, experience design catered to the play and learning preferences of girls, with a gender-neutral colour scheme and a female role model (a character named Dot) was included throughout.