A much-needed addition to city’s lacklustre science landscape

Published October 4, 2021
A view of the Magnifiscience Centre from the inside that is also accessible to people with special needs.
—White Star
A view of the Magnifiscience Centre from the inside that is also accessible to people with special needs. —White Star

KARACHI: Once you do find this wonder of science hidden in the concrete jungle, you wouldn’t want to leave it. Chances are that you’ll have to be dragged out if they notice you still looming around at closing time. But there is also a good chance that no one will even find you for there are several nice and comfy places to hide in The Dawood Foundation (TDF) Magn­ifiscience Centre (MSC).

There is the tree house, the witch house, the mazes and so many play areas for you to lose yourself in on the premises.

The Dawood Foundation (TDF) Magnifiscience Centre (MSC) is the country’s first modern and interactive science centre housing hundreds of interactive science exhibits, demonstrations and educational programmes.

It has been built at a place behind I.I. Chundrigar Road in Railway Quarters where there used to be several railway warehouses owned by the Rally Brothers. Earlier, this place was used for storing industrial raw material to be sent out to the rest of the country through the railway tracks nearby.

TDF interactive museum houses hundreds of interactive science exhibits, demonstrations and educational programmes

The fortress-like brick wall around the warehouse has been restored. Its original teak wood windows and doors have been cleaned and polished. Of course the warehouse — which also had plenty of asbestos, a health hazard — was torn down. In its place now stands a custom design state-of-the-art ground-plus-three floor building. Stepping inside, you also become a part of TDF CEO Sabrina Dawood’s vision and mission of empowering visitors with a better understanding of scientific thinking. “It is our contribution towards making science accessible for everyone, elevating science literacy in the country, and inspiring the spirit of inquiry among our younger generation,” she says.

Her journey in this direction started with the science exhibitions at the Dawood Public School, which also grew into the Magnifiscience Studio at Dawood Centre near the PIDC Bridge. And now that studio that has grown into an entire building. It is a museum, gallery, theatre, park all rolled into one.

Just like the wall, the old trees at the place have also been preserved. “We built around them,” says Sabrina as you notice all the labels and information about the trees and shrubs growing in their ‘Science Garden’. It’s about to rain and you see swarms of dragon flies. “They’ll gobble up all the mosquitoes,” she says. A pretty green and white butterfly flutters about the greenery before settling upon a blossom by a pond as the CEO claps her hands with glee. She encourages you to venture inside the green maze created amid bushes and you feel lost the moment you enter it. “Go on, it can also teach you about making the right decisions in life,” she says as she chases you inside. There is also a hamster wheel for humans in one corner besides the swings, ladders, slides and tree house.

Two people standing in an Ames room appear to be of dramatically different sizes, even though they are the same size. (Right) Visitors learn about different science projects and take part in activities.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
Two people standing in an Ames room appear to be of dramatically different sizes, even though they are the same size. (Right) Visitors learn about different science projects and take part in activities.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

Heaven for experiential learners

Inside, there are more inclusive, informal learning spaces. Each floor of MSC is dedicated to different science topics and themes, including the human body, sound, light, optical illusions, transportation, forces and motion, and renewable energy. A wetland mangrove ecosystem is installed right in the central court or the atrium.

Around it there is the theme of a Karachi neighbourhood or mohalla with roadside restaurant models, there is an area for the youngest of learners, an area showing how construction is done, another corner dedicated to health, another that introduces you to the water world and yet another teaching about transportation. An entire truck decorated in truck art has lots of magnetic letters and words lying beside it for you to come up with your own catchy phrase or verse to put on it. The rickshaw has a seat that vibrates for you to learn about this not so smooth means of transport. It’s a heaven for experiential learners.

The first floor has a huge beating human heart and lots more to teach about the human body such as its functions, senses, etc. There is also the illusion section, a section dedicated to light, an auditorium for science shows, and much more. The second floor is about energy, forces, motion and mathematics. Meanwhile, the third floor, planned to teach about the environment, is still under construction.

It’s a labour of love with attention and care given to every little detail. Even the cafeteria downstairs has cups and saucers screwed to the walls and spoons and forks strung together to look like wind chimes and big silver cauldrons being used as planters.

Ms Dawood is of the opinion that one should be able to take one’s family out to other places too for recreation besides shopping malls and restaurants. “But here the museums keep closing. The aquarium and planetarium was also closed down. But places such as these and stadiums and libraries are places where children get to learn etiquette and manners. They can learn together as a family. I want students, teachers and parents to come here. I want this place to be used for holding meetings, workshops and lectures. Learning should be fun and should be ongoing.

Two people standing in an Ames room appear to be of dramatically different sizes, even though they are the same size. (Right) Visitors learn about different science projects and take part in activities.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
Two people standing in an Ames room appear to be of dramatically different sizes, even though they are the same size. (Right) Visitors learn about different science projects and take part in activities.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

Not-for-profit

“As a not-for-profit organisation, we rely on our fellow citizens to help us in making this a successful and sustainable endeavour by offering their time, effort and resources to it. We hope that the people of Karachi and beyond can play an active role in making MSC a hub of learning and a catalyst in developing the country’s science capital,” she concluded.

The centre is open on weekdays (Monday to Thursday) from 8am to 4.30pm. It is closed on Fridays and the timing for Saturday and Sunday are 10am to 7.30pm. The price per ticket is Rs700 per person on weekdays and Rs800 per person on weekends.

Published in Dawn, October 4th, 2021

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