Following on from my random low-tech post two weeks ago, here’s another idea if you’re looking for inspiration – museums. It does need a little more effort than my previous suggestion, but I promise you, it’s worth it.
On Saturday, we went to At Bristol – and no, that is not a grammatical error. At Bristol, or @Bristol as it is also known, is a science museum full of interactive exhibits, and packed with stories.
I’m not just thinking of the stories of human development and biology, of space exploration, food production, physics, engineering and chemistry, or even the animations section where every aspect of devising, creating and producing films was being practiced, although there is plenty of material in any portion of that. You could, of course, look up many of those facts from the comfort of your armchair. What you get when you visit a place, is something basic and obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway – an opportunity to people watch.
So why a museum? Because they’re places where people behave differently. In the traditional style ones everyone has to be ‘hands-off’ and that can provide some interesting situations. But when it’s hands on, people of all ages engage with things.
What I liked was watching how much braver children are than adults. Whether they understood what they were doing or not, they moved water, drowned ships, made music from plastic spheres, built landscapes in sand, models in giant lego bricks, weighed brains, did psychological tests… and sometimes studied the accompanying short explanations. If I met something out of my comfort zone, I started with the instructions, and followed them faithfully, or nurdishly enjoyed the short theories presented and made notes to find out more.
Children just launched in. They pushed, pulled, and pressed without fear of consequences or inhibitions. Every so often when I stopped playing and watched, I saw that the barriers and boundaries between adults and children were dissolving as the day progressed.
I’ve come home with a lot of ideas. For some of them I’ll need to do some research, but the human parts of the stories have been generated by that wonderfully basic creative writing tool, people watching.