As urbanization has picked up pace in Turkey over the last couple decades, construction has taken over significant parts of cities, making it harder to find empty areas, especially within metropolises. Many parents complain about the lack of free space for their children -- somewhere they can spend time and play games with their friends. Some people think that this situation dulls the creativity of kids, and some institutions have hired entrepreneurs to solve these problems. One of them is Usturlab, an establishment that presents various workshops to children that involve the "learning by practicing" method.
The Usturlab Children Workshop was established by Sümeyye Ceylan and Zeynep Handan Aydoğan in 2013. Speaking to the Daily Sabah, Ceylan said that the idea of establishing such an institution dates back to the years when she lived in Vienna. "I lived in Austria for nine years. Before my son was born, (my first five to six years in the country), I did not realize what the city means for mothers. When my son was born, I started to look at the city from a different perspective. At that time, I realized how Vienna is a child-friendly city. It was as if the entire city was designed for kids. I noticed that mothers could easily move around with their baby carriages. Additionally, you have the opportunity to place your child in kindergarten for a very low cost." Returning to Turkey three years ago, she said that living in Istanbul with children was very challenging compared to Vienna. "In Istanbul, it's almost impossible to walk with your child on sidewalks, not to mention using public transportation. I thought that this city could also be designed as friendly to mothers and their children. However, I'm a mathematician, not a city planner. So I thought that some scientific institutions should be created that would help to make the city more livable for children and mums. And I shared my thought with Zeynep. At that time, she was also not satisfied with her job, and she shared the same thoughts as me about the city. After we thought about what we could do, we established the Usturlab Children Workshop, which aims to present a better life, as well as education opportunities for our kids."
The organization mainly aims to improve children's creativity by providing them with new experiences to trigger their curiosity toward the objects around them, as well as to present them with new points of view of nature. They also develop an alternative point of view with regard to a student's curriculum (especially from primary to high school), which is constantly criticized for its infectivity in increasing children's interaction with nature and stifling their curiosity. For these reasons, Usturlab offers children an interactive and attractive science workshop that appeals to their senses.
These workshops focus on the research, observation and experimental process in three different fields: Life Sciences, Earth Sciences and Physical Sciences. Recent scientific research reveals that children learn easier and are better able to memorize the information they learn when they participate in the learning process. These workshops make research, observation and the experimental process more enjoyable and enable them to "do science" instead of just listening to information given about science. Usturlab offers children six different workshops that provide education in various fields. Here are the workshops:
1- Little space explorer in the Milky Way: Children are provided with the opportunity to have a closer look at the Sun, get information on planets and get to know more about our planet Earth.
2- Living miniatures factories: This workshop can be basically considered as an introduction to science. It aims to teach questions like: "How do we do science?" or "Why do we conduct research?"
The workshop features video displays that enable children to have an interactive, detailed view of cells, the smallest units of life.
3- Architectural Workshop: In this workshop, some basic information about architecture, particularly about bridges, is given to children. The participants must search for answers to questions such as "How do bridges carry cars and people?" and "How do bridges stand firm while cars pass over them?"
4- Vibrant Waves Sound Workshop: Children witness vibrations that create sounds and learn the functions of vocal cords in the Vibrant Waves Sound Workshop. They also have the chance to learn how sounds differentiate depending on the environment. In other words, the aim is to teach attendees how to create and spread sounds.
5- Light Workshop: In the Usturlab Light Workshop, children take a step towards experiences that have attracted the curiosity of humankind for thousands of years: The world of light. Attendees will be introduced to light waves and learn more about optical illusions.
6- Forest Explorers Workshop: This is probably the most exciting workshop of Usturlab. The Orman Kaşifleri workshop, which means Explorers of the Forest, aims to make children love nature and introduce everything about nature to them, including trees, fruits, vegetables, insects, herbs, etc. The "learning by practicing" method is implemented in this workshop. Attendees hike and explore with the assistance of expert guides in selected parks. Its aim is to show nature from a scientific point of view through examination and narration accompanied by interactive games. Children record their experiences, observations and the information they learn in their "Nature Notebook," which is provided by Usturlab.