JULIA SOLANO

Social entrepreneurship, digital design + fabrication.

 
 

The Fantastic World of Fungi

UX Design, Exhibit Design
Fall 2013

 


About

The Fantastic World of Fungi is a museum exhibit concept formed in collaboration with the Santa Cruz Children's Museum of Discovery. My team and I worked to create an educational and fun exhibit on Fungi that catered to children of all ages. Our design process involved researching both fungi and museums, as well as visiting various children's museums such as the Habitot Museum in Berkeley to observe children in an interactive museum environment.

This project was created in partnership with Berkeley Innovation, Cal's human-centered design student organization. Read an article about our work here.

 
 

Process

At Habitot, we saw children playing in a "grocery store" where they could ring up food for their parents and imitate actions they've seen outside the museum. In our fungi exhibit, we hope to take something familiar to children - being outdoors - and teach them things in that same environment. Once beyond the museum walls, children will be able to point out what they've learned while simply playing outside. On the smallest scale, we hope to spark children's curiosity about the natural world before them.

While speaking the founder of Habitot, we learned that children of different ages interact with and learn from their environment in different ways. For example, at age three, most children haven't don't recognize the idea of interacting with other children yet and would tend to play with a train set alone. Four year olds, however, are more likely to begin sharing (or even fighting) with children around them.

Toward the middle of the semester, we narrowed our focus to answering questions, which we called "Learning Objectives." We considered the senses we wanted to engage and the topics we wanted to cover in answering these questions. We decided on creating an exhibit prototype that brought the outside world into the museum and covered questions such as "Where are fungi found" "How fungi Interacts with it's environment" and "How fungi affects me."

 

 
 

Final Product

Our design features a two story exhibit that slopes from one floor to the next. Visitors begin "underground," getting an up close view of the roots and dirt that mycelium thrive on. As visitors journey through the exhibit, they move from underground to above ground, all the while gaining an understanding of what fungi is and its importance to themselves and the environment. There will be interactive activities at varying heights throughout the journey.

Once visitors reach the grass and tree of the second story, they learn about mushrooms - highlighting those specific to Santa Cruz, with hopes that they will recognize the local mushrooms in their surroundings outside of the exhibit once they leave. At the highest point in the exhibit is the Storytelling Tree, where children can gather round in a circle known as a "fairy ring" and listen to stories that are reminiscent of fungal folklore of the past.

 

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