Children’s Centre for Civilization and Creativity

Ossama Meguid and Fatma Mostafa

Children’s Centre for Civilization and Creativity

2 Abu Bakr El Siddique, St., Heliopolis, Cairo

Heliopolis, Egypt
Museums+Heritage Awards 2012 / International Award

Education is not Training for Life but Life Itself

Introduction and History

The Cairo Children Museum was created in 1996, as an initiative supported by the First Lady of Egypt.  It occupies an area of land of 14 Acres run by the Heliopolis Society a NGO created to improve the city.  The first exhibition was designed by the British Museum and the Natural History Museum in London. It ran successfully for 10 years attracting nearly 100,000 children a year and was designed to provide for children from all social and educational backgrounds without discrimination. The entry is free for disadvantaged children, and subsidised for state schools.  In 2007 following a fundraising effort lead by Dr Zahi Hawass, the Minister of Antiquities Affairs, money was raised to create a new facility to respond to increased demand. The new project was won following an open competition by Mallinson Architects and Engineers, and provided for a total educational environment, with the landscape and museum exhibits integrated together. It was renamed the Children's Centre for Civilization and Creativity when it was reopened in November 2012, to great acclaim having won the International Award at UK's Museums and Heritage Awards.

The Educational Mission, Vision and Values;

The museum's mission is to create an integrated creative workshop at national and international level, based on cultural dialogue and shared scientific values, accessible to all levels of academic development, and through creative activities to contribute to the preservation of Egyptian Heritage.  Its vision statement is for the children to "Discover for themselves the rich and vibrant heritage of Egypt" and the values it promotes are "Equity, Diversity and Education for Life".

The Museum's Learning Narrative;

The new Children Museum and Garden provides a structure around which children can build up an understanding of the history, culture and geography of Egypt as they explore the landscape and displays. A basic learning theme connects the whole together focused around the idea of the River Nile, as an expression of time, place and people. 

The first encounter with this learning narrative is at the museum entrance, marked by a giant pyramid structure orbited by iridescent spheres, this is the emblem of the museum, science emerging from the history of Egypt.  The journey begins with the Nile source fountain, where the children are reminded how the Nile valley emerged from the seas in the late Pleistocene (150,000 years ago) leaving behind fossils of Basilosaurus of the Late Eocene (40-34 Million Years ago) on its banks. They then follow the development of the Nile valley as they walk down the path into the garden. They pass the Jungle area when the Nile banks were inhabited with elephant, hippo and crocodile as recorded in early rock inscriptions c. 25,000 - 15,000 BC. They then reach the Savannah where the drying of the Nile valley brought gazelle, lion and giraffe to Egypt, and final the historic period where the Nile Valley was settled. Here the children discover the market gardens of the Pharonic civilisation and the medieval settlements of the villagers and Bedouin encampment.  The path arrives finally in modern Egypt's urban Heliopolis parkland where the museum and cinema are located, and the seaside of Alexandria with the Roman Theatre, open-air classrooms, playground and cafeacute;.  This simple journey open's the children's minds to the development of Egypt and the ideas of discovering time in the changing landscape of their country. 

These themes are used again in the main museum. The museum buildings design also reflects the idea of time, the steps work as an ancient Egyptian Sun Clock, the conic drum reflects the Water Clock, and the blue dome an emblem of the heavens of the Star Clock. The Nile water flows from the source in the basement up a glass spiral ramp inside the water clock drum and links the four floors and times and themes of the museum: Basement - Where are you from? - Discovering the Archaeology of Egypt through time from Old Kingdom, New Kingdom to Graeco-Roman Period; Ground Floor - Who are you Child of the Nile? - Discovering Everyday life in Egypt, the seasons of the Nile, Flood, Sowing and Harvest; First Floor - Where are You Now?  Discovering Modern Egypt and how you can improve it; Top Floor - Where are you going? Discovering the Future from the History of Science in Egypt.

The Museum has developed unique hands on learning and immersive experiences to encourage the children's discoveries. Recreated spaces, puzzles, and learning games detail every part of the exhibition. From Tutankamen's discovery to your own archaeological dig, build a temple to be a Pharoah, and restoring the Basilosaurus in a Fog show, to a journey through the stars to find science in Egypt every experience is unique, imaginative and innovative.

Creative Social Centre:

The museum also acts both as a social and as an education activity centre using its open air classrooms and theatre for integration programmes of different communities with different skills, out door activities, scientific training, educational workshops, hosting international exhibitions on educational and environmental themes, and out reach programmes to "under the radar" children.  It also hosts cultural events such as music concerts, lectures, festivals, and soon an interactive digital cultural panorama.


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