Danfoss Universe in Nordborg, Denmark is a so-called theme park. I don’t think that there is another translation that suits, it is definitely not a theme park in the way many of us consider the term. If you come here to be entertained you will be disappointed, but if you want to explore, experiment and investigate you will definitely lose yourself here.
We were fortunate to have a session with Maria who gave us some background and philosophy. Maria is a passionate science teacher and consultant who spends the winter period when the park is closed, developing new ideas to engage the visitors and writing materials for teachers. In the summer she runs camps and activities for students. Maria outlined the key ‘ambitions’ of Danfoss Universe:
To share enthusiasm for science
To provide an inspiring learning environment built on new knowledge about how humans learn
To support and be an inspiration to innovative thinking and innovative learning.
These principles underpin the planning and decisions made at Danfoss Universe. As we walked around, it was evident how the priorities affected decisions. Even the spaces between the main activities gave opportunities to learn and experience science. The park’s gardener is very well know and the plan and layout of the gardens showed quirky science ideas like the up-side-down tree*, the tele-tubbie hills, sculptures to play with* and sounds that emit as you walk past.
Excitement and enthusiasm for science is critical for all employees at Danfoss Universe. It doesn’t matter where or how they work, they must have a love of science.
As we walk through the gate we are greeted by the character – a mad scientist*. Maria isn’t fond of this depiction of scientists and would rather see scientist depicted as a young and attractive girl, to break the stereotype.
We are immediately captivated by the big blue box, purchased by Danfoss from the Icelandic exhibition at a world expo. The big blue box* contained a geyser, Tesla Coil in a Faraday cage, replicating lightning and a glacier* to walk through. The glacier is forming around a fiberglass shell and we squeezed through the narrow walls.
The Explorama exhibition had two floors of activities based around Garners multiple intelligences. This sections had activities that stimulated the minds of every intelligence type. Gardner was consulted on the project and when he saw the finished product he recognized that they had captured what was in his mind.
Not being a scientist, I was skeptical that this park would engage me, but time slipped away as I became involved in the different activities, Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of ‘flow’ is a key value of the park. I was definitely in the flow. As it was a school vacation week in Denmark it was also fun to see children and their families having a ball, while investigating science.
But most fun of all? We rode Segways* around a track.
You can see photos* of our adventures at Danfoss Universe, visit http://www.twitter.com/scil