On one of the 10 floors of the newly opened Museum of Solutions, or MuSo, in Mumbai, kids are seen walking around with earthen pots on their heads. It is a rather unusual sight, especially inside a museum housed in a fancy glass building in the posh Lower Parel. These bottomless pots are fitted with earphones, through which they listen to recorded instructions. The audio prompts them to walk through the narrow lanes of what looks like the set of a village, wade through a small water body, and then use a hand pump to fetch water.
“It helps them understand what difficulties their counterparts in villages face to get a single bucket of water. It teaches them empathy and the value of water,” says one of the activity facilitators at the museum.
Elsewhere, there is a large water structure replicating Mumbai’s Mithi River, which caused catastrophic floods in 2005. Despite periodical clean-ups, it still remains one of the most polluted rivers in the country, clogged with plastic and other waste. At its replica structure in MuSo, participants must try different solutions, using toy bridges or water gates to ensure debris stay out of the river. It’s this learn-with-play and think-solution model that makes the museum, targeted at kids up to 13 years, a thought-provoking, fun space, abundant in lessons about climate change, inclusivity, communal harmony, empathy, teamwork and a lot more.
MuSo was born out of former Teach for India fellow Tanvi Jindal Shete’s quest to find an inspiring, progressive and future-thinking platform for children.
“Those that existed fell short of international standards in terms of content, design, visitor experience, outputs and outcomes,” says Shete.
The 36-year-old is the daughter of Sajjan and Sangita Jindal, and director of Mumbai conglomerate Jindal South West (JSW) Foundation overseeing the education portfolio. MuSo was founded at a cost of Rs 210 crore, coming mainly from JSW’s coffers. The team is led by Michael Peter Edson, as chief museum officer, who was earlier with the prestigious Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.
The cafetaria at the institution is run by Subko Coffee Roasters, which has a special menu with decaffeinated drinks and salad bowls. Then, there is the gym with balancing swings, and an area fitted with a green screen, allowing children to select the world heritage site they would like to climb—from the Eiffel Tower to the Taj Mahal.
One of the highlights is the Luckey Climber, a brilliantly designed climber, to navigate which the kids have to help each other. “They might have to ask the other to make room, pull one another to the next level or ask for the right direction,” says a facilitator. “It compels them to work as a team,” he adds. Parents are also encouraged to climb alongside, making for a great bonding activity.
The impactful animated film around Puddles, the turtle, is a big draw too. Produced by Shete and featuring Dia Mirza and Jackie Shroff as voice artistes, it follows the animal’ life as it witnesses the rich marine life of the Andaman island being replaced by plastic.
“After watching the film, a child promised never to litter the streets or the beach,” says Shete. There are lessons in gravity with objects falling off a conveyor belt, besides why earthquakes happen through a simulated exhibit.
On the 10th floor, there is a lab that has all the arts and crafts material that one may require to build cardboard models, 3D-print something or even produce a podcast. On the same floor is a section upholding the importance of diversity and peaceful cohabitation.
“The aim was to create meaningful experiences , which children want to keep coming back for,” says Shete, as she scouts for locations in other cities where she can replicate the museum.
The entry fee to the museum begins at Rs 400 and can go up to Rs 1,200, depending on what one chooses to experience. Every Monday—except public holidays—is free for NGO kids and children from government-run schools. There are also special group discounts, and no adult can visit the museum unless accompanied by a child.