Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Tom Tits Experiment in Sodertalje, Sweden

Tom Tits Experiment was frequently recommended as a favorite science center by nearly all who had visited it. The center is housed in an old brick factory building, located about 40 minutes by train from the center of Stockholm. It was well worth the effort to get there.




First, a bit about the name… According to legend, the name derives from a character in French history. Although the exact details are not known, Tom Tits is believed to have dressed as a clown and performed science demonstrations for the public at the base of the Eiffel Tower. There is also a 17th century book titled “Tom Tits Experiment” displaying interesting science phenomena, and the center has kept this tradition alive by publishing a number of books (mostly in Swedish) with hands-on experiments that people can do with simple, everyday materials.

The center reminded me of the early days of the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum except more so, with 4 floors of very interactive, home-brew quality exhibits in a brick firehouse. The aesthetic is simple: wood and everyday materials wherever possible and keep visitors as close as possible to the phenomena.













“Science is Everywhere” would be the best way to describe it, with small creative touches on floors, walls, and ceilings everywhere. For example, the tables in the cafĂ© have glass-topped boxes embedded in them with things like the amount of formula used by a baby or different types of grains, and even the cashier’s countertop is an educational exhibit on different types of beans as seen here,

while a window in a stairwell indicates its dimensions in mm so visitors can develop measurement sense.

A large outdoor science park covers about 10,000 m2 (the same area as the inside displays) and has a vast network of water exhibits, a huge centrifugal force carousel, and some great optical illusions and sound exhibits. The plantings were superb, with an amazing array of flowers and other plants everywhere.




The center also runs a highly successful pre-school for 60 children. This school has a rich environment, with many colorful rooms and lots of science, and it uses the exhibit areas in the science center as well. With a staff of 12, the school takes children between 7 am and 6 pm. Most children attend for 5-6 hours. While I was visiting, an organized group of leaders from other Swedish pre-schools was there for the day to learn about how this one works.

Tom Tits has a staffed workshop for the public (shown here), where visitors can construct various projects for a small materials fee.

In addition to its own exhibits, the center builds traveling exhibits; however, they are used primarily by schools and other non-museum venues. The center is also about to develop a series of interactive exhibits to be mounted permanently at various locations within the city.

Significantly, the organization itself has done much to operate according to its core values as they relate to sustainability.



For example, food waste is composted all year long with this device. Also, the center is currently seeking certification for sustainability in accordance with Swedish standards. A long-term goal is a significant reduction of its carbon footprint through renewable energy and changes in the use of transportation.

One of the lasting impressions was the creative way in which every possible opportunity to use everyday materials had been exploited. From an auditorium laid out as a periodic table...





to a chandelier made of bones in the human body area, this center is one of the richest learning environments out there.

3 comments:

Massimo said...

The Tom Tits Experiment got the prestigious Micheletti Museum Award a few years ago, being a member of the Jury and one of the initiatiors of this Award scheme, I am pleased that you found it interesting
Massimo Negri
European Museum Academy Director

Massimo said...

The Tom Tits Experiment got the prestigious Micheletti Museum Award a few years ago, being a member of the Jury and one of the initiatiors of this Award scheme, I am pleased that you found it interesting
Massimo Negri
European Museum Academy Director

Mark Walhimer said...

Great stuff! Mark