Curator's Choice: Thinktank's Clara Lim on Wacky Wheels

By Ben Miller | 19 June 2012
A photo of children enjoying a ride on an unusual mechanical vehicle in a science garden
Visitors to Birmingham's new Science Garden work together to operate Wacky Wheels
Curator's Choice: In her own words...Clara Lim, Interactive and Temporary Exhibitions Manager at Thinktank, the Birmingham Science Museum, chooses her favourite exhibit from the new Thinktank Science Garden...

“Choosing a favourite exhibit is harder than I thought it’d be. I’m really torn between the Hamster Wheel and Wacky Wheels exhibits. They both provide such different experiences and learning outcomes.

A photo of a woman standing inside a play wheel in an outdoor science garden
Clara Lim has a go at the Hamster Wheel
Forced to make a choice, I’m going to go for the Wacky Wheels exhibit. A two-person wagon with round wheels on one side and square wheels the other, it’s an exhibit that ticks many boxes.

Playing on our preconceived notions, it encourages us to make our own assumptions about how ‘silly’ or ‘uncomfortable’ riding on square wheels will be. This is akin to developing a hypothesis – a key skill in employing the scientific method.

Visitors then get to test their hypothesis, and are often pleasantly surprised by how smooth the ride is. This surprise provokes cognitive conflict, and acts as a springboard for learning to take place.

It is also a ‘bodies-on’ experience, meaning that visitors experience physical phenomena on a real-world scale. This is something very difficult to achieve in the classroom, labs and inside the museum. The kinaesthetic learners amongst us are well catered for by this exhibit.

Although it may seem like it’s just a lot of silliness or ‘re-inventing the wheel’, Wacky Wheels is just so striking and attention grabbing.

At Thinktank, we plan for exhibits like this to give our visitors ‘YouTube’ moments – or simply, social media opportunities.

This is becoming increasingly important if we want to successfully engage the youth of today. The idea is that there are no pictures, it didn’t happen.”

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