Children get a new museum of answers in Mumbai


Mumbai’s newest children’s museum, the Museum of Solutions, blends objects and experiences

Children clamber up an abstract structure that looks like a cross between Jack’s giant beanstalk from the fairytale and an art installation. “I am constantly in awe of the way children of all ages interact with the climber,” says Tanvi Jindal Shete, CEO and founder of the Museum of Solutions (MuSo), Mumbai, while pointing to the Luckey Climber, an interactive three-dimensional climbing device which is a staple in many children’s museums across the world and has just arrived in India. “Along the way, they make friends, learn to collaborate, and collectively have fun in a visually stunning and experientially superior environment.”

Museum of Solutions, which opened on 26 November, is a not-for-profit children’s museum designed as a large educational laboratory with learn-through-play devices and programming.

While all children’s museums are designed as learn-through-play spaces that foster an interest in science, art, and design through interactive devices, each museum recasts this purpose differently. Mumbai’s other, older museum, CSMVS Children’s Museum, is a creative cultural lab that also has a mock archaeological pit and a 95-year-old African baobab. At MuSo, there are exhibits, devices, a recycling centre, and investigation stations that encourage children to find solutions to real-world problems through play.

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Shete, a former Teach for India fellow, noticed a paucity of meaningful activities and spaces for children to learn and play in Mumbai. She visited many children’s museums around the world to understand their design, visitor experience and outcomes. The result is MuSo, which will not only serve members of the public, but will also offer 50% of its school visits free of cost. This will ensure that children from government schools, anganwadis (rural childcare and development centres), and municipal schools can access the museum’s resources, which are available in English and Hindi, she explains.

And there are plenty of resources. In the rapid prototyping studio, which is part of the Make Lab at MuSo, children can use 3D printers to create models and figurines or build from scratch with whatever they find around them.

 Tanvi Jindal Shete, CEO and founder of the Museum of Solutions

Tanvi Jindal Shete, CEO and founder of the Museum of Solutions

Looking for solutions, the museum tells children, can be fun and meaningful. The Bernoulli shooter, for instance, is a great way to explore science. It creates a steady air stream that can hold objects in the air, even at an angle. Children need to use the horizontal and vertical rotation as well as throttle move a floating ball through three target hoops and complete a challenge. Children need to figure out the exact movements to make this work.

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The museum’s other zones include the Grow Lab, the Discover Lab, and a quiet zone called the Library of Solutions, a child-led lending library of books and games. The Discover Lab’s overarching theme is water and the museum plans to move on to other themes in the future. In the lab’s empathy zone, interactive storytelling exhibits focus on water and its use in Mumbai.

One of the most interesting interactive exhibits is the talking matka (earthen pot) in the Discover Lab. Designed with headphones and helmets, children can wear these matkas and walk through three simulated pathways, listening to interactive stories and understanding which path would be most suitable based on spillage and safety. The ways to engage children are fun but there is a deeper, more meaningful cultural anchor in every exhibit that will make the learning stick for a long time to come.

Shweta Sharan is a freelance writer based in Mumbai.

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