Three years ago the SCHIRN opened its permanent creative and learning parcours for children, the MINISCHRN. Chantal Eschenfelder talks with the SCHIRN MAG about the unique pedagogical concept and gives some insights into future plans.
What is the nicest compliment you and your team have received for the MINISCHIRN?
“Here’s the MINISCHIRN. We want to go to the MINISCHIRN!”, two little boys shouted recently as they came out of the nearby Römer subway station with their mother. That’s great to hear of course, because we wanted to create a unique place that children really enjoy visiting and where they acquire the foundations of creativity and design in a playful way. The really special thing about this discovery parcours is that they are guided by their natural curious urges and their delight in discovery, and at the same time gain aesthetic experiences.
30,000 happy children in three years of the MINISCHIRN. What is the recipe for success behind this?
It’s undoubtedly down to the variety of individual spatial presentations and experimentation stations. The architecture is virtually unique: It is reminiscent of the principle of a treehouse, in which children like to use plenty of imagination to create their own little worlds. There’s a lot to discover at the MINISCHIRN: Basic aesthetic skills such as dealing with color, form and structure can be experienced with all the senses – from the color tunnel to the mirror room, the pattern generator or the seesaw-cinema. One really popular element is the folding space. There children can use large green foam triangles that connect with magnets to build ever new spatial structures, creating caves and fortresses. What holds up? What collapses? By trying these things out, the children learn the basics of geometric construction almost as a sideline.
Crawling through tunnels, playing with hand puppets and making silly faces in the house of mirrors: What sets the MINISCHIRN apart from an indoor play area?
The difference is the pedagogical concept that underpins it. While the children watch, climb or build, at the MINISCHIRN they are actually working with the regulating principles of art and the everyday world. They explore color phenomena or get drawn into the fascination of physical regularities. In doing so, they get a range of sensory, motor and cognitive stimuli – a kind of aesthetic alphabetization. This helps them in the development of their personalities and their psychomotor development. Precisely at a time when education in these skills is frequently given scant regard in day-to-day life, the MINISCHIRN makes a very important contribution here.
Another crucial difference to a simple indoor play area is our pedagogical staff who guides the children in their learning, providing impulses for the discovery process and thus driving and consolidating what they learn.
The MINISCHIRN was designed for children aged from three years to elementary school age. Admission is free for children whose parents are visiting the current exhibition. What makes the permanent experience space in the entrance area of the SCHIRN so attractive that children of various ages want to come back time and again?
Children always come back in different circumstances – with brothers and sisters, other friends, or for specific events. Hence, from the outset we developed a comprehensive supporting program: For example, children can celebrate their birthdays at the MINISCHIRN and choose the program they want from a range of ten different workshops. For nurseries and playgroups as well as school groups, the MINISCHIRN offers various educational activities such as the color and form laboratory, in which children can gain a color master’s license. There are also regular school holiday offerings that are linked to current exhibitions, such as Basquiat. Boom for Real. During the coming Easter break we’re holding one-day workshops that are all about creative examination of the line as a means of design.
The SCHIRN exhibitions change, but the MINISCHIRN remains. Are there any new plans for the coming year?
It was very important to us to develope alongside the changing pedagogical programs accompanying our special exhibitions a constant educational offering within the SCHIRN. This offers a resource that families and educational institutions in the Rhine-Main region can make use of time and again. The offerings at the MINISCHIRN create the basis for subsequently tackling art and ensure that future visits to exhibitions will be a positive experience for children. The program is continually being further developed. We are planning to expand the popular family afternoons in order to cater to the growing interest among parents, who want to experience the MINISCHIRN alongside their children. Here, family workshops are also on offer. When designing together, children can learn a great deal from adults, but the parents and grandparents learn even more from the children. We also want to expand the MINISCHIRN concept in the area of linguistic development. We are linking up the visual experience and learning with all the senses to the discovery of rhythm and sound in language.
Ms. Eschenfelder, many thanks!