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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 April 2007, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
Jordan opens children's museum
By Dale Gavlak
BBC News, Amman, Jordan

Jordan will soon open a new museum just for children in the capital, Amman. The innovative Children's Museum-Jordan combines hands-on learning with scientific knowledge.

Queen Rania of Jordan (centre) at the museum
Queen Rania (centre) came up with the idea for the museum
It is the first such museum of its kind in the country. It's also the biggest children's museum in the Middle East.

Queen Rania of Jordan came up with the idea more than four years ago. She recently paid a visit to the interactive museum along with 150 Jordanian schoolchildren.

"I am absolutely happy with the outcome," Queen Rania beamed as she viewed one interactive state-of-the-art exhibit after another exploring such themes as humankind, technology and the natural world.

"You should consider this your home, a home for children and youth, besides being one of Jordan's important monuments," she told pupils who gathered around her to give their feedback on the exhibits ahead of the museum's official opening next month.

Play and learn

The modern multi-layered concrete and steel structure vibrates with electric yellows, blues, and reds beckoning children from toddlers to early teens to discover, touch, play and learn.

We want to get away from simply rote learning and communicate concepts in an exciting way that will boost creativity among our schoolchildren
Queen Rania

Subjects such as history, arts, science, fitness and ecology - part of the normal school curriculum - come to life through colourful displays and lively activities.

"We want to get away from simply rote learning and communicate concepts in an exciting way that will boost creativity among our schoolchildren," Queen Rania told visiting reporters.

Elementary and secondary education in Jordan, as in other Middle Eastern countries, has until recently been a pretty staid affair.

Children paying at the museum
The museum aims to combine play and education

Memorisation and repetition have been the main staples of learning, while activities encouraging analysis, creative thinking and problem-solving were rare.

But over the past four years, Jordan has been overhauling its curriculum and textbooks to encourage greater creativity and classroom discussion.

Ancient times

In one of the museum's open spaces is a section called Ancient Times - a big sandbox that replicates the site of an archaeological dig.

It is replete with shards of "ancient" vases, hand shovels and other tools of the trade.

We want the museum to be their cultural centre and a safe place for them to explore
Hanya Salah
Museum director
Pictures and explanations of ancient relics discovered in Jordan dating from Roman times dotted the box's perimeters to be identified by budding archaeologists.

Other students learned about water-saving techniques and recycling at the Energy Lab, while at the Dynamic Planet exhibit, children had the chance to identify various rocks and build earthquake resistant buildings.

"Whatever they've learned at school, they'll see it in a different way here and hopefully be inspired to see it in a new perspective," museum director Hanya Salah said .

"We want the museum to be their cultural centre and a safe place for them to explore."

She said the museum, which includes a library and planetarium, wants to reach all of Jordan's children, not just those in the capital.

Ms Salah said plans were underway for a mobile museum which would bring interactive exhibits to children by bus for those living in Jordan's more remote communities.

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