Through oceans of imagination, children explore science at SCRF

Through oceans of imagination, children explore science at SCRF
Through oceans of imagination, children explore science at SCRF

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Nevin Al Sukari - Abu Dhabi - These children make the most of a photo-opportunity at the 12th Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival. Kamal Kassim/Gulf Today

Jamil Khan, Senior Reporter

Blending science with aesthetics, children gained a deeper understanding of density and mass as they created their very own mini-ocean inside a glass jar at the ‘Ocean Layers’ workshop held at the 12th Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF).

“Here, children learn how the density of heavy substances have a stronger gravitational pull through an easy ocean experiment, while learning the names of all the layers of the ocean,” said Sarah Mezher, who was facilitating the workshop.

“What is most interesting is that children are always surprised to learn that the ocean is actually made up of layers!” she added, laughing.

During the hands-on session, children constructed layers of the ocean using basic materials that can be easily found at home. Mixing dark blue food colouring with honey, they created the bottom-most layer, the ‘Trench Zone’. Dish soap is then poured on top to create the ‘Abyss Zone’ owing to its lighter density than honey.

Then, children move on to constructing the ocean’s ‘Midnight Zone’ by mixing water and a vibrant blue food colouring. For the ‘Twilight Zone,’ Mezher instructs the young participants to use oil, and it floats up on the surface of the water. Finally, to make ‘Sunlight Zone’, the topmost layer of the ocean, kids use rubbing alcohol – the lightest of the five substances in the jar.

Colourful, fun and simple, the workshop ignites the curiosity of children by teaching them the science of density. “When they are introduced to unconventional ways of understanding science – like this ocean layer experiment – it becomes easier for them to grasp key concepts that they not only memorise but also feel confident about applying,” Mezher opined.

At the end of the workshop, children close their jars with a golden lid, symbolic of the sun, stick a sweet seashell on top and take their very own ocean back home with them.

FUN INDUSTRY: However, books, plays, puppet shows and other creative art forms can bring value to children and capture their attention by being more entertaining than moralistic or instructional. This was the essence of ‘The Fun Industry’ discussion held at the Cultural Forum yesterday (Friday, May 28) during the 12th Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival (SCRF).

“Children come to the theatre to have fun, not to learn. Give them what they need. Authors all over the world need to research the psychology of a child. What makes them dance, what makes them scared, what makes them hate, what do they aspire to do? Authors need to be able to answer these critical questions while creating content for children,” said Dr. Hussein Ali Haref, Iraqi artist and academician who has authored 30 plays and 13 puppet shows for kids.

“The ethical messages are already being delivered to kids by society, through their families and the school,” he added.

Agreeing with Dr Haref, American award-winning author and illustrator Kevin Sherry shared his experience of interacting with schoolchildren by using costumes and puppets to create a lively interactive atmosphere.

“When I put on a bear-head costume, make them sing and start telling them jokes, they start having fun and I get their attention. Once you have their attention, the child’s mind becomes receptive to whatever information you may want to give them,” said the author of I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean and The Yeti Files series.

With children moving towards getting their entertainment mostly from social media and digital platforms these days, are playwrights and puppeteers concerned that these traditional forms of entertainment may soon be replaced?

“It’s good to be represented on digital platforms, but I think everyone knows there is a huge difference between a child looking at something on a screen and them experiencing something in real life. When they interact with a live show, they come alive, it brings something out from inside of them,” added Sherry.

“This session is in person,” Dr Haref continued. “If this session were online and you were home looking at us through your screen, would it feel the same? Theatre is one of the oldest forms of art, and despite movies and TV, it hasn’t lost its charm. I don’t think a child will ever lose their interest in a play or a show regardless of what technology comes in future,” he added.

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