Fun with an ulterior motiveAugust in Korea is a time of panic for both children and their parents, though for different reasons. Children are disappointed that so little time is left to play before they have to go back to school, while parents are burdened with the obligation to properly educate and prepare their children for the autumn semester.
Since Korea is a country that has a high passion for education, there couldn’t be a better time than now for museums and other facilities aimed at children. Businesses in this field are booming as Seoul hosts a variety of exhibitions for children that try to be both educational and entertaining.
Exhibits from the mathematical science center Mathematikum in Gieseen, Germany, are in Seoul in a long-running exhibition named after the center.
The theme of the “Mathmatikum” exhibition is to let children experience math the fun way, by “touching math” and “feeling math.” In about 50 interactive exhibits, children can experience the various principles of mathematics without having to figure any of it out with a pencil and piece of paper.
The point of this exhibition is to encourage students to break free from the rote memorization style of learning that’s predominant in Korea, and to get them to indulge their creativity and sense of fun. The goal is more to learn the principles of math than to figure out the answers to individual problems.
“Hands on” is an important watchword at “Mathematikum,” and children must get physically and mentally involved to figure out why things are what they are.
For instance, what happens when you roll a ball on a flat slope, as opposed to when you roll it on a slope that has a bumpy surface? Don’t guess ― roll the ball and find out, then try to understand why the two balls move differently.
The exhibition is not limited only to youngsters. Many families come out on the weekends together; there is a special admission price for families.
“Mathematikum” runs until March 1 at Children’s Hall in Gwangjin-gu, next to Children’s Grand Park in northern Seoul. Tickets range from 7,000 to 8,000 won; family tickets are 26,000 won. Children under the age of 4 are admitted free.
Think da Vinci
If you had to pick one person that Korean parents most wanted their children to be like, a very powerful candidate would be Leonardo da Vinci. In fact, “Think da Vinci” is the second Leonardo da Vinci-related exhibition going on at COEX this summer; the difference is that this one is aimed at children.
According to M.O.D.U Co., the company that planned and directed the event, this exhibition is a participatory educational program that tries to get kids to “think like da Vinci,” by stimulating both the logical and the artistic sides of their brains.
In the tour, which lasts an hour or so, children move through several rooms in small groups, tinkering with toys and doing various play activities, under the direction of a wizard or witch dressed up in a robe and pointed hat. The organizers say that while the children may be under the illusion that they are just having fun, they are actually honing their scientific and creative skills.
There are five rooms. The first is the curiosity room, since all inventions and discoveries begin with the big question mark. For instance, one wall of the curiosity room is covered with tiny boxes, filled with small items, which children can open to see what’s inside. The second room is the room of senses ― sight, sound and smell. Walk on colored blocks and watch them light up, or rap on circles on the wall and hear different materials make different sounds.
The third “creativity” room contains several examples of inventions that Leonardo da Vinci made, and explanations of how they work. They can also learn about the laws of perspective, or look into curved mirrors and understand why their reflections look different.
In the third and fourth rooms, children can experience media art and three-dimensional animation.
The final room is filled with tables where they can do all sorts of paper crafts.
Although many parents tag along with their children to take pictures, parental guidance is unnecessary, especially since the children are guided in small groups. The guides speak only in Korean, but most of the activities don’t really require explanation, and can be enjoyed by children who don’t understand the language.
“Think da Vinci” continues until Aug. 21 at COEX. COEX is located at Samseong station on subway line 2. Tickets are 15,000 won ($15). For more information, call M.O.D.U Co. at (02) 3443-6483.
World Bug Exhibition
If there is one thing about summer vacation that is inescapable, it’s bugs. Whether camping in the forest or swimming at the beach, one is bound to come into contact with bugs like mosquitoes, beetles and fireflies.
But for children who live in high-rise apartment complexes in the city, listening to the noisy screeching of cicadas at night or waking up to find a hairy caterpillar crawling across the bedspread is not something that happens every day.
Fortunately, the “World Bug Exhibition” gives city kids a chance to examine some unusual insects, both dead and alive, and some of them in pseudo-natural habitats.
The subtitle for the “World Bug Exhibition” is “Learn and Experience”; the event is hosted in part by the state-run Education Broadcasting Station (EBS). Located conveniently in Gwanghwamun, downtown Seoul, the exhibition features 9,200 insects of 820 species from all over the world. Some are endangered species.
Some of the species challenge the notion that bugs have to be small ― the 15-centimeter (6-inch) giant blue scorpion from Thailand, for instance, is on display live. There are some colorful ladybugs that pass gas when they are touched, much to the amusement of onlooking children. The exhibition area has pavilions for rare and endangered bugs, dioramas of stuffed bugs in their natural habitat, areas to examine live bugs, and a pavilion to listen to the different sounds of insects.
The exhibition continues to Aug. 31 at the Convention Center within the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Seoul. Tickets are 15,000 won for adults and 12,000 won for children. For more information, call (02) 541-2614.
by Wohn Dong-hee