Saturday May 18, 2024

A praiseworthy endeavour to foster children’s interest in science

By Oonib Azam
October 15, 2021
A praiseworthy endeavour to foster children’s interest in science

In the heart of the city’s business hub, adjacent to the bustling II Chundrigar Road, on Railway Road, stands a rather peaceful yet interactive science centre of The Dawood Foundation (TDF), namely MagnifiScience Centre (MSC).

The foundation is the charitable arm of the Dawood Hercules Group. The MSC is the country’s first of-its-kind interactive science centre, which offers hands-on experience of complex scientific concepts that inculcates in one an urge to learn and understand those ideas rather than cram or memorise them.

This is exactly what the chief operating officer of The Dawood Foundation and MSC project manager, Syed Fasihuddin Biyabani believes.

Talking to The News, he said it was science that made the difference between a developed and an underdeveloped nation. The purpose of the centre, he said, was to clear basic concepts of science.

“With practical demonstration, our concepts are cleared,” he remarked, adding that how ‘Ratta’ (cramming) was rife in our education system and how at the MSC, they wanted to show how actual formulae of science worked so that they could be thoroughly understood.

A praiseworthy endeavour to foster children’s interest in science

The centre, Biyabani explained, was not only for small and middle-age kids but also for elders.

It all started with a massive three-day science exhibition in 2016 at the Dawood Public School, which was attended by 40,000 visitors, of whom 15,000 were students from outside the city for which transportation had been arranged by the foundation.

In 2017, another such exhibition was held at the school, following which a pilot project, TDF MagnifiScience Children's Studio, was started in 2018. During this time, the foundation also held a science exhibition in Thar.

A praiseworthy endeavour to foster children’s interest in science

The project manager explained that they gained experience over the years through such exhibits. Their team members also visited different countries to get insight into how such projects worked. A United States-based firm, Informal Learning Experiences, that deals with museums, zoos, nature centres and out-of-school spaces guided the foundation in the establishment of the MSC.

Their team member Robert Mac West, Biyabani said, advised TDF to employ some exhibit designer for various themes, after which a German designer, Hettinger, was engaged for the selection of floor-wise theme in the centre.

The centre

The centre’s entrance is regal. A royal yet simple chandelier surrounded by a colonial era balcony of the gatehouse welcomes the science enthusiasts who enter the MSC.

The land where the MSC has been constructed originally belonged to the Ralli Brothers Enterprise owned by the Ralli family with a 99-year lease starting September 30, 1888.

There was a warehouse building on the land when the Dawood Corporation Ltd. purchased the property in 1969. In 1974, it was transferred to the Asian Co-operation Bank but was later purchased back in 1976 and transferred to the foundation’s name in 1988. TDF has retained the remains of the British era warehouse’s yellowish-brown stone.

The centre comprises ground-plus-two-floors and a science garden. The ground floor is Kids World Karachi which has features of a Karachi Mohalla (neighborhood), markets, hospital, Sawari Adda (bus stop) and construction zone.

A praiseworthy endeavour to foster children’s interest in science

At the Karachi Mohalla, there is a tea kiosk where children experience the traditional Dhaba culture of the city. In an activity there, the children can arrange discs in the right order to see the complete process of brewing tea.

Then there’s this ‘City on the Move’ section at the Karachi Mohalla where children can use a car or a train to explore the infrastructure of Karachi starting from the Dawood Centre.

In the hospital section, there’s ‘fix the body parts’ activity in which children can take apart the magnetic bones and create their version of a human skeleton. They can also use the guide to put the skeleton back together in the correct position.

In the health section stands an ambulance in which a mannequin lies. The children are given lab coats and they can play a doctor inside the ambulance.

At the construction site, the children can use a tower crane in real and learn how buildings are constructed.

There’s a Pakistani truck activity where the cultural truck poetry is broken and visitors can make their own poems or sentences through those broken couplets. One can also create interesting sentences as well decorate the truck with artwork by sticking magnetic pieces onto the truck.

A wetland mangrove ecosystem has also been placed in the atrium of the building on the ground floor. The sunlight beams through the rooftop of the multi-storey building directly at the ecosystem.

The first floor is all about the ‘World within Us’. The aim of this section is to develop an understanding of how the human body of each individual is similar, yet unique. It has a human body section, light section, centre for health innovation, auditorium and seeing is believing and sound section.

On the second floor, there is ‘physical world’ where sections are dedicated to mathematics, energy, and forces and motions.

At the science garden, there’s a swing section, navigation maze, tree house, hamster wheel, obstacle course and balance challenge.

“TDF MagnifiScience Centre is our contribution towards making science accessible for everyone, elevating science literacy in the country, and inspiring the spirit of enquiry among our younger generation,” said TDF Chief Executive Officer Sabrina Dawood.

She added that as a not-for-profit organisation, they rely on citizens to make it a successful and sustainable endeavour by offering their time, effort and resources.

“We hope that the people of Karachi and beyond can play an active role in making MSC a hub of learning and a catalyst in developing the country’s science capital,” she said.

The science centre is open from 8:30am to 4:30pm Monday till Thursday with an entry ticket of Rs700. On Saturdays and Sundays, the timings are from 10:00am till 7:30pm with a ticket of Rs800. The MSC remains closed on Fridays.