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March 1999

It's a Science: Tips for Inquisitive Kids

A run-down on Munich's educational programs for children.for

What is energy?” This seemingly simple query, coming from a child’s lips, leaves many adults glancing vaguely at the electrical outlet while stammering out an explanation of something that few people really understand anyway. But there’s help. Removed from the rigors of school, extracurricular science displays and programs can guide children in their exploration of natural and applied sciences. When complicated topics are introduced playfully, learning is assured. Exploring inventions and technology propells kids toward the discoveries of the next millenium. It also gives you time to scurry off and look up “energy” in the encyclopedia. Whiz Kidz.At their first physics session in the “Hands On Science Outreach” (HOSO) program, a dozen three-to six-year-olds learned, among other things, the concept of the black hole. “Your eyes are green, or blue, or brown. But in the middle, there’s a black hole, and it’s called the pupil,” explained instructor Lisa Kretschmer. Suddenly the pre-schoolers were gazing deep into each other’s eyes. All but one refrained from poking at it. HOSO is a hands-on, informal science education program for pre-school through sixth graders. Through crafts, simple models and experiments, kids’ interest in scientific properties is piqued the fun way. Architecture, engineering, physics of sound, flight, color or light are some of the program topics, and courses rotate throughout the year. Groups of six to twelve children participate, and the courses are offered in English or German. “We especially want to encourage girls to take an active role in science,” says Kretschmer, “and the best way is to help them feel comfortable with these subjects at an early age.” For more information on the Munich area curriculum, contact Lisa Kretschmer, area coordinator, tel. (0173) 350 64 38. The organization’s web address is Kinder & jugend museum. Recently opened after the winter break, Munich’s children’s museum, located downtown north of the train station, is presenting its new program, “Mirrors.” Games and illusions that use reflections, refractions and light would certainly enchant the Wonderland’s Alice. Plenty of “Try Me” experiments clue kids in on how mirrors work. And all the while they’re learning properties of physics. They can play with their own shimmering images and otherwise delve into the subject matter – without dad glaring over their shoulders while he waits to use the bathroom mirror for a shave. Guided workshops and a crafts studio reinforce concepts with in-depth practice and give young looking-glass fans a souvenir of the day. For more information, look at The hands-on museum is open from 10:00-17:00 (closed Mondays), Reichenbachstr. 12; tel. 260 92 08. Deutsches museum. Mold plasma or bend electron beams at one of the world’s largest technology and science museums. From its historic exhibits on transportation to interactive demonstrations in astronomy, physics and energy, it is a haven for young scientists and would-be inventors. You can spend a whole day in any one of the Deutsches Museum’s departments. During school vacations, the Deutsches Museum holds special kids’ programs, such as a super-sleuth certificate children can earn when they fill in a questionnaire about the exhibits, or fairy-tale hours when young listeners learn how alchemists tried to turn metal into gold. The museum’s website, in both German and English, includes interactive experiments, at The Deutsches Museum, located at Museumsinsel 1; tel. 2179-0, is open daily from 9:00 to 17:00. If the complexities of science leave you feeling like a Neanderthal, then take the family on an excursion back in time from March 26–28. A museum weekend-immersion workshop for children and their parents throws twentieth century dwellers back to the stone age. Make prehistoric tools (tree bark and flat stones figure prominently) and learn to cook like a caveman. Registration through the Münchner Volkshochschule, Museumswerkstatt, tel. 4 80 06-130/131. Websites: Of course, science-savvy kids probably have more than a nodding aquaintance with the Internet already. Here are some fantastic kids’ science web sites that will have you wrestling your children for the keyboard.An excellent site, is the page for popular science for kids. It offers introductions to different areas of science (e.g., energy or astronomy) and a vast selection of links in easy-to-read type, including a mad scientist’s lab. It’s set up by engineer, hobby scientist and nice guy William Beaty, who also produces the site Try (Science Learning Network). Although the home page looks limited, with a few well-placed clicks, it takes young researchers to many different areas of interest. Still under construction, (Worlds of Wonder) can provide the answer to the dreaded energy question.

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