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Children enter a world of science in Zurich

The Children's City promises youngsters a world of adventure swissinfo.ch

The first “Children’s City” in Switzerland has opened in Zurich, offering youngsters aged two to 12 the chance to explore the world of science and technology.

This content was published on October 20, 2004 - 17:59

The project is the brainchild of 34-year-old Sandrine Gostonian, who was named 2002 Entrepreneur of the Year for her efforts.

Spread over 6,000 square metres, the Children’s City encourages children to learn as they play.

“The idea behind the Children’s City is to introduce children to scientific topics without them noticing it,” Gostonian told swissinfo.

Unlike adults, children have an enormous learning capacity and are burning with curiosity, she commented.

“Edutainment”

In the “Edutainment Center” ramps and stairs lead from the entrance to five separate sections, where children can explore topics ranging from science to politics, or gain some hands-on experience in a chocolate factory or kitchen.

Children who choose the expedition path can explore different scientific topics, finding out about the brain, electricity, or learning how to make a film.

Another arena lets children explore a house, an igloo, or even the Swiss parliament building, encouraging them to learn more about politics.

“In learning about politics, you will discover that it is really not boring at all,” reads an inscription.

Setting up

Gostonian, a mother of two, decided to set up the Children’s City after visiting the children’s education centre “Cité des Sciences” in Paris.

Back in Switzerland, she faced the difficult task of finding investors and sponsors for a project that only existed in her imagination.

Volketswil in canton Zurich was chosen from nine locations, despite not offering a railway connection, its mayor Bruno Walliser said.

One reason for deciding on Volketswil was that with an average age of 37 years, the population was the youngest in Switzerland, Walliser said, adding that the region had the highest number of children in Switzerland.

Gostonian said another reason for choosing the site was its location next to a shopping centre and the motorway.

“We want to be where people live [so as to be within easy reach],” she said.

Parents too

The children’s city is not meant to be a day-care centre where parents can dump their children to go shopping on their own, said Gostonian.

“Children are only allowed in if accompanied by an adult,” she explained.

She said the idea was that children would make discoveries with their parents, “have conversations and ask questions which we don’t have time to answer”.

Gostonian employs 25 full-time and 25 part-time workers. She said her staff worked closely with the Pedagogical Institute in Zurich to ensure that the children got as much out of the experience as possible.

The Children’s City is a commercial venture, which cost SFr17 million ($14 million) to launch – SFr12 million for the building costs alone.

Gostonian admitted she was under pressure to break even, but had no regrets about the project.

“I am very happy that my dream has come true,” she said.

swissinfo, Urs Maurer in Volketswil

children's city

Children’s City opened its doors on October 6, 2004.
It cost SFr17 million ($14 million) to set up.
Sponsors covered the major part of those costs.
The centre hopes to attract 250,000 a year.

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In brief

Children’s City offers the opportunity to explore science through play.

Five separate sections allow children to learn about different topics, from electricity to cooking.

The project is run in cooperation with the Pedagogical Institute in Zurich.

Children’s City is not a day care centre, and children have to be accompanied by adults.

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