Scientific games and toys. Playing, thinking and communicating sciences

An example of museum science education

The University Museum of Chieti pays great attention to its educational role by developing and implementing educational workshops, educational projects and training courses for schools of all levels, using communication methods and tools suitable for the different recipients of the educational action.

For several years, at the beginning of the new school year, the Museum offered teachers the opportunity to use the museum facilities and exhibits to implement science teaching and learning through the “Playing and thinking science” meetings based on the principles of active education, coordinated by playful pedagogist Antonio Di Pietro.

Laboratory activities in meeting of "Playing and thinking about the sciences", University Museum of Chieti, 2018
Laboratory activities in “Playing and thinking about the sciences” meeting, University Museum of Chieti, 2018

Participants are invited to experience scientific activities and games, to discuss what it means to “do science” with children and young people and to reflect on issues relating to the scientific method. At the base of these meetings of scientific ludo-didactics there are simple experiments, easily carried out by students with recycled material.

The book Giocare, comunicare e pensare le scienze

Over time, it became apparent the need to create a teaching tool useful for tracing the guidelines of the individual games-experiments, almost as a procedure manual. For this reason, the Museum has decided to produce a volume with a deliberately operational editorial format. It is the result of the experience and long work of museum education experts and competent illustrators and graphic designers.

The aim of the training meetings is the leitmotiv that runs through the pages of this book: to create a balance between playing and thinking about science because doing science only in a theoretical form is not enough, just as it cannot be enough to propose it only in a form of a game.

The structure of the book

There are five themes (acoustics, buoyancy, flight, motion and chemical transformations), each developed through three playful activities described with different approach.

The first activity of each theme is proposed in a guided mode. There are indications for making a game or a toy in order to enhancing observation and arousing that curiosity necessary to formulate some questions.

Example of preconceived activity within the macro-topic "Floating"
Example of preconceived activity within the topic “Floating” in which the aim is to discover how a thing that floats, once lightened… sinks. The necessary tools and materials, and the individual steps to follow are listed

The second activity are described in semi-structured mode to support the experimentation as much as possible. These are experiences that lend themselves to proceed through variants that are useful to stimulate the re-search of the questions.

Example of "half-conceived" activity within the macro-topic "Transformations"
Example of “half-conceived” activity within the topic “Transformations” in which in the box “And if …” is proposed to mix boiled red cabbage (rich in anthocyanins) with other substances besides those listed in the “preconceived” mode to observe possible “coloured” chemical reactions and to further investigate the acidity or alkalinity of those substances

The third activity is of the “planning” type. Unlike the previous ones, the “What if …” box (an invitation to continue asking questions) does not appear since the proposal is already a “problem solving”.

A cooperative challenge (without winners and losers) to be carried out independently or to “lead” (in case there is a need for support) by enhancing the skills and ideas of the students. At the end of each playful activity, the basic scientific principles are indicated.

Example of a "customisable" type of activity included in the macro-topic "Sound"
Example of a “customisable” type of activity included in the topic “Sound” in which everyone is invited to create an object which reproduce the loudest thunder sound possible with the listed materials. It is proposed the sound exploration of metals, through the didactic problem-solving methodology, to understand how the sound intensity depends on different variables/factors
Museums and publishing

In recent years, editorial offers have increased, both those related to temporary exhibitions and visits to museums, and those closely related to the scientific activity of museums and directly produced by them.

Museums are a great resource, especially for our country. However, as for all great resources, it is necessary to identify solutions that allow them to be valued, making real what would otherwise remain only a potential asset, and books can be an essential part of the process of divulgation and building knowledge carried out by museums.

Beyond the simple divulgation

The Museum of Chieti, through the book Giocare, comunicare e pensare le scienze, whishes to offer an educational tool that goes far beyond the divulgation function, engaging the reader in reasoning, starting from his daily experience.

According to Francis Bacon, wonder is the seed from which knowledge is generated, a thesis supported by the words of Bruno Bettelheim (1990), which explain perhaps in the best way what is sought, and often found, in children science books: “The best thing we can do to our children is to instil in them that sense of reverence and wonder, from which meaningful knowledge is generated. This type of knowledge really enriches our life, because it allows us to transcend the limits of everyday life: and this is an experience that we absolutely need, if we want to fully realize our humanity”.

Disseminating science means not only explaining it, but also making it accessible and pleasant, precisely because it is not the public that have to be interested in science, but it is science that must try to make itself interesting in the eyes of the public, employing all the more appropriate and modern museum means of communication, possibly integrated with each other in the creation of multidisciplinary projects and products.

Antonio Di Pietro

Antonio Di Pietro

He is a playful pedagogist, President of Cemea Toscana and member of the international research group Jeux et Pratiques Ludiques of CEMEAs. He collaborates with the School of Humanities and Education (University of Florence), LUDEA (Free University of Active Education) and LUNGI (Free University of Game). He carries out practical-reflective training, supporting in educational services, educational innovation workshops, active meetings with parents. He has published several titles on the theme of game and play.

Alessia Fazio

Alessia Fazio

She is graduated in Primary Teacher Education at the University of L’Aquila in 2002. Since 2010 she has been working at “G. d’Annunzio” University Museum of Chieti-Pescara, and, since 2019, she has been an employee of the Biblos Cooperative. She is mainly involved in creating educational projects. For the Museum she carries out educational activities for schools of all types and levels, and ludo-didactic activities.

Jacopo Cilli

Jacopo Cilli

He is graduated in Archaeology from Ca’ Foscari University of Venice in 2011, and holds a PhD in Physical Anthropology from the “G. d’Annunzio” University of Chieti-Pescara since 2018. Since 2020 he is a research fellow at the same university with a study project of ancient human remains from Abruzzo region. Since 2011, he is a scientific collaborator of the “G. d’Annunzio” University Museum of Chieti.

Maria Chiara Capasso

Maria Chiara Capasso

She obtained master's degree in Architecture and she specialized in Interior Design. She is freelance in the world of Exhibition, Interior and Graphic Design. She is AFAM professor of Service Design at the ISIA of Pescara and of Interior Architecture at the Pantheon Institute, in Rome. She is already a research fellow (Teramo University). Currently, she is a PhD student (Department of Architecture - G. D’Annunzio University, Chieti).