Anniversary – 5000m today2 And exported around the world, Cité des Enfants was seen by 15 million young viewers. Its success is based on a simple recipe: introduce kids to science while having fun.
At the entrance to the Porte de la Villette, Paris’ city of science and art, visitors are greeted by a giant cat wearing whipped cream and candles. The symbol of the Cité des Enfants, the cat celebrates the 30th anniversary of this 5,000 meter space this year.2Totally dedicated to 2-12 year olds
Born in the mind of physicist Maurice Lévy in 1979 during the creation of the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, the Cité des Enfants has evolved over three decades. “Memory Machine” But a reference to magic for children.
“Play is a child’s work.”
Currently one of the most visited areas of the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie with 700,000 visitors each year, the Cité des Enfants has seen more than 15 million young visitors pass through its walls with their accompanying persons. The two pavilions are divided into thematic spaces and there is no defined route: the space is based on a common desire, as summarized by Professor Marcel Rufo, child psychiatrist and professor at APHM Aix-Marseille University: “Playing is a child’s work, but it is a joy that proves his great appetite for learning.” La Cité des Enfants uses the curious and autonomous minds of children aged 2 to 12, to discover their bodies, their emotions, the elements, etc. and bring them their first contact with the world of science.
During the 240 exhibits and daily activities offered by the museum team, they learn to find their way in space thanks to the maze, manipulate objects in “special ships” and even present weather reports in TV studios. .
In the pavilion for 2-7 year olds, an amazing spectacle. Dozens of small workers, wearing construction helmets and safety vests, are as busy as an anthill. To build their collaborative spirit, the museum team, in collaboration with a scientific committee comprising childhood experts, has envisioned two sites, one for children, one for adults, where children must interact and learn. To build houses with foam bricks.
Another anthill, very real this time, is one of the oldest and most popular structures in the Cité des Enfants. Located in a space dedicated to 5-12 year olds, Antill and its glass plates allow children to discover the organization of an ant colony. Steps away, in the tropical greenhouse, colorful butterflies are a fascination for children and adults alike. This space called the Garden provides children with their first awareness of their environment and its fragility.
In each of the two spaces, the current water games are also a great success with children since the space opened in 1992. Especially in this hot weather. Eddy, force, movement, density, flow… while splashing around, children discover the properties of water, the movement of water and the scientific phenomena responsible for it.
Emotions and awareness of the living world
A scientific committee of experts is formed to develop each and every activity of the museum. This is a way to adapt to the needs of children, which change every year. “Each time we try to find a strategy, a vocabulary, an environment, a statement that allows us to address certain age groups in the best way and accompany them throughout their lives towards adulthood”, As one of the Cité des enfants leaders explained.
If university president Bruno Macquart says that if the Palais de la Découverte and the City des Sciences et de l’Industrie merge into one institution, he doesn’t know what the City des Enfants will look like in 30 years, but he’s sure it will fit. Already addressed in the pavilion for children aged 2-7, the child’s emotions, as well as his relationship with others, it should be the subject of living together, differences, new installations and exhibitions in the future- he explains?.“For 30 years, “Science for Kids” “Evolved, even if not a great revolution, recent trends show the importance of emotion in learning.”, he develops. In the meantime, the Petits Curieux line is called through exhibits Fragile!On the first floor of the Cité des Sciences until January 8, 2023, and the story of Roky the pebble, Windy the balloon, Iggy the egg, Folia the sheet of paper, Glitch the soap, and Plote the ool Children. “are drawn into adventures that lead them to experience fragility” And thus, to discover resilience.
Another theme should also be explored during the renovation of the Cité des Enfants in 2024 and 2025. Through outdoor spaces and especially through a terrace for children, Bruno Maquart maintains that he wants “Place greater emphasis on raising awareness of human relationships with the living world and its environment”. By the same logic, Cité des Enfants encourages a certain kind of restraint. “Neither a technophile nor a technophobe”The company’s policy is to use digital “When it encourages creativity and activity” The university president explained.
At Cité des Bébés, which is still in the testing phase “Children’s City Lab” And which will be made permanent in 2023, the veil is even prohibited. Based on the recommendations of early childhood experts, the museum asks accompanying persons to leave mobile phones outside the venue. A measure that also responds to Cité des Enfants’ desire to make visits to these spaces a moment of “co-education”, where adults can interact “Weakly or strongly depending on the moment, according to their wishes, according to the child’s request”Bruno Maquart explains.
A timeless and universal recipe
If it has grown well since opening (from 1850 m2 At 5000 m2), the Cité des Enfants has several exhibits such as water games, construction sites, ball machines, gear, but above all the same recipe. In this spirit of playful learning, the museum is always developing more activities to light up the eyes and minds of children. During the first confinement, from April, the intermediary groups redoubled their ingenuity to propose activities carried out with the thematic spaces of the museum. “at home”. Making their own footprints in modeling clay, creating shadow theater or even learning to listen to their heartbeats, the children were able to wait calmly before the museum reopened and now enjoy about fifteen experiences from afar. “There is a need, a huge need, for the kind of activities we offer for children.”Commentary Bruno Macquart.
Like all good recipes, the Cité des Enfants can be exported in and out of its borders. Established as a great specialist in museography for children, the institution shares its expertise and several cultural institutions for children have emerged in the same model as the Cité des Enfants with images of 1000 meters of space.2In Lille, at the Lillenium shopping centre, designed by a university team, or in Hong Kong, at the Science Museum.
Bruno Macquart also noted that there was “strong” To watch, when he came to inaugurate this new space dedicated to children, were the young Hong Kongers “Children take what they are given in the way they play” At Children’s City in Paris. “It’s the same thing because I think we’ve created a universal language that doesn’t face cultural barriers and that allows us to speak to all children regardless of their culture, their mental universe… and that’s very valuable. We know that wherever we go Why, the kids will love it.” He analyzed.
Whatever the Porte de la Villette, the Cité des Enfants is a well-oiled memory machine. On its 30th anniversary, the museum teams have, on this occasion, redoubled their creativity to make it one big party. Throughout the year, Cité des Enfants is a call for testimonials to share your oldest memories, but also with surprises and new activities, as a highlight, an anniversary weekend on September 10 and 11, during which children will be able to take charge. For the entire Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, as well as, childhood professionals, a symposium that will question the practices and spaces of the child inside and outside the framework museum. “Thirty years is a moment of great joy. We are very excited to give the keys to the Cité des Sciences to the children for the whole weekend”, Bruno Macquart is already impatient, like a child who has been promised a visit to the City of Infants. Before ending, please: “It’s going to be a big thing.”