Explore the wonders of Alice's world

10th March 2006 at 00:00
Alice Through The Looking Glass Glasgow Science Centre until October 29 tel 0141 420 5003 www.glasgowsciencecentre.org

An award-winning exhibition inspired by Lewis Carroll's most famous children's books has opened at the Glasgow Science Centre.

The wide-ranging, interactive Alice's Wonderland show was launched at the San Jose Children's Discovery Museum in 2003 and has already been seen by more than two million Americans. The Science Centre in Glasgow has added an extra layer to the displays and renamed it Alice Through The Looking Glass.

Despite the name change, however, teachers should note that the show is still based almost entirely on the characters and adventures in Carroll's Wonderland book.

The exhibition was designed by a team of women research scientists, whose aim was to create a show that would appeal to children aged 3 to 8, particularly girls, who are traditionally underrepresented in science and maths.

The hope is that the colourful, interactive displays will make visitors curiouser and curiouser about science. As staff at the science centre explain: "The exhibition covers a wide range of science and technology topics but the overall theme is illusion.

"Alice Through The Looking Glass uses the storylines and characters of Alice's magical world to intrigue visitors with demonstrations of how we make sense of the world around us. The exhibition explores the wonders of perception over reality and shows the most fascinating tricks that our brains can play."

The show covers the entire third floor of the centre. To describe it as "colourful" is an understatement and there are so many interactive displays that visitors may find themselves feeling almost as confused as Alice when she found herself in Wonderland.

Like the first chapter of Carroll's most famous book, the exhibition begins with the White Rabbit and visitors are treated to the (slightly unsettling) illusion of falling down a rabbit hole as cupboards and bookshelves flash before our eyes.

Shortly after landing, with a bump, Alice finds herself in "a long, low hall. There were doors all around but they were all locked." The hall of doors (10 in total) created for this exhibition is a triumph. You may not be able to open them, but you can peer through spy holes and see, among other sights, a 3D Alice slide show and a back view of yourself looking through the spy hole.

The Mad Hatter's Crazy Clock features six mini films (such as a loaf going mouldy and a man diving into a swimming pool) that you can wind forward and back.

The onomatopoeia video activity ("a big word for a simple idea") is quite addictive. You see the word, hear the sound it represents (boom, crunch, roar and so on) and then get to watch and hear yourself saying it, too.

In the Victorian sitting room (complete with reproduction fireplace and armchairs), visitors can choose from a selection of Alice books and relax.

Some displays are less successful than others and, where possible, teachers should take a tour of the show (free, if you book in advance) before bringing their class. The concession rate for schools (must be booked) is pound;4 a pupil and includes entry to the science mall. You can download activity sheets (including a list of careers linked to the activities) from the San Jose museum site, www.aliceforteachers.org.

Deedee Cuddihy

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