Some may think that a serious, scientific institute is not a fun place to take your kids when on holiday, but according to Sydney’s Ian Perlman, Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science knocks that thought for six!
On a recent holiday, Ian wanted his family – wife, Ruth, mother-in-Law, Diane Shteinman and two children Lena (10) and Theodore (6) – to experience more of Israel than just the big city of Tel Aviv where they were based. A drive through the Israeli heartland to Israel’s leading scientific organisation, Weizmann, in Rehovot ticked that box.
“I had heard about the Weizmann family program and that it was very child-friendly, so it sounded like the visit would be educational, fun and engaging. It certainly did not disappoint as Weizmann had my kids captivated from start to finish,” he said.
Their tour commenced with a film that was not projected onto a screen but all around, so the viewer is literally within it.
“This was good start for the tour, because it ushers you into the language of science and ‘introduces’ you to actual scientists. Not only did the film tell us about the fascinating Weizmann science in a way that is easy to understand, it was very entertaining – particularly in the way it was presented, so that captured my kids’ attention straight away,” he said.
A golf buggy then took them on a drive around the campus to visit various buildings and institutions with one being what Ian calls a ‘standout’. This was the Veterinary Research’s mock ‘bat cave’ – where research into how bats communicate and orientate is carried out.
“This was a highlight for the kids as the scientists, who gave up their precious time to talk to us, explained the research so well, including that the cave has fake moonlight in the day and fake daylight at night so the scientists can study them when the bats are awake,” he said.
“Even more exciting was when the scientist put on a special suit, entered the cave and retrieved a bat so we could see it up close. Once caught, she communicated with the bat to calm it down by making clicking noises and hand gestures. It was a real Dr Doolittle moment for us all!” he said.
“My son, who is a dinosaur fanatic and has an understanding of animal anatomy, was full of questions, as were we all, so we ended up in there for over an hour,” Ian said.
Another ‘standout’ was an after lunch visit to the award winning Clore Garden of Science, an interactive outdoor museum where unlike most museums, kids are encouraged to touch everything!
“This was simply spectacular and with the good weather, a great place for children to both learn and play,” said Ian.
“We spent the longest time there as the kids kept discovering new things to experience. Occasionally we would share the space and interact with other visitors, whilst not disturbing those who were absorbed in their own activities in the garden.
“As a family we have travelled a great deal and like to go to natural history museums and similar places, but the Weizmann visit was the most stimulating, educational and accommodating experience so far,” Ian said.
Ian is no stranger to Weizmann, having visited in the 1970s as a teenager although the place, he said, has changed quite a bit since then.
“It was great to return and see the changes. I teach architectural history, so was fascinated to see the mix of fine new buildings along with the old buildings at Weizmann, particularly the oldest, Weizmann house, designed by Erich Mendelsohn, who designed other campus buildings as well. The Israel National Centre for Personalized Medicine building is the newest and most impressive, as is the science being performed there,” he said.
“The great thing about Weizmann is that its science is shared between scientists of all faculties: they all talk to each other. No department is an island. That’s what makes Weizmann’s approach to science totally unique.
“For me, the visit was so much for my own architectural passion as well as the reward of watching my kids learn new things while having lots of fun, themselves. I cannot recommend a visit to Weizmann highly enough! So if you are planning a holiday in Israel, come to the heartland of the country and learn about science and the world from the best,” he concluded.