Wonderful world of science

Wonderful world of science

Date
Monday, 05 August 2013

Media Type
The New Straits Times (Online)

WINTER jackets and boots are provided... Wearing long pants is essential to keep warm in the -10°C temperature...” read the media brief on a visit to Snow City at the Singapore Science Centre.

While the reminder makes me shiver involuntarily, it also prompts me to make a mental note to wear thick socks and bring my scarf along.

Armed with a Gallery Map, I follow the signs and the excited chatter of students and families to start my edutainment discovery trail at Singapore Science Centre.

FREEZING FUN
A short walk down a covered corridor takes me into Snow City, Southeast Asia’s only permanent indoor snow chamber, next to the Science Centre.

It is close enough for some cool fun instead of travelling half-way around the world to escape our tropical heat.

The excitement is infectious as I join a throng of visitors who are pulling on fleece coats and padded gloves.

I’m thankful for my thick socks as I slip my feet into winter boots provided and clomp my way through a chilled room, letting the freezing temperature in the Ice Gallery hit me.

My eyes are focused on the long queue of visitors on one side of the slope with their arms clutching rubber tubes and waiting for their turn to snow-tube down the 60m-long snow-covered slope.

On the other side, there is a charming Candy House for kids but the excitement is clearly centred on the slope.

Thrill-seeking visitors are snow-tubing down individually or in groups, in a tremendous rush accompanied by earsplitting screams, only to join the queue again for their next exciting ride down!

Snow City is a popular destination which gives visitors a chance to experience cool respite in sub-zero temperatures and the joys of snow.

I watch visitors bundled up in thick coats, boots and gloves, frolic in snow drifts while children throw snowballs at each other.

My face starts to freeze as I catch snowflakes floating down in tropical Singapore’s Winter Wonderland and when I speak my breath comes out in tiny puffs!

MEGABUGS RETURN!
Even though I’m not a great fan of creepy crawlies, I’m still looking forward to a Honey I Shrunk The Kids experience and walk among super-sized plants, flowers and insects in the centre’s latest Megabugs Return exhibit.

Since the successful debut of Megabugs in 1994, the return of Singapore’s largest and updated exhibition of insects aims to help a new generation understand and appreciate these tiny creatures.

At the thought of seeing live specimens I suppress another shiver and firmly decide that wearing long pants and thick socks is certainly comforting!

I walk through an entrance designed with black giant forest ants crawling across an ant hill and I pause as my eyes quickly adjust to the dim lighting in the tunnel.

The clever use of shifting lights create an impression of a spinning tunnel that will shrink visitors as they step into the exhibition space modelled after a larger than life backyard.

Bathed in an eerie light and surrounded by giant animatronic insects set among towering blades of grass, it certainly gives me the feeling that I’ve truly shrunk!

I must admit that this is the first time I’m standing so close to creepy crawlies without feeling squeamish.

That’s probably because I’m also marvelling at the science behind the construction of the 14 specially built gigantic creatures that will move at regular intervals.

Next to each exhibit of cockroach, centipede, grasshopper, praying mantis, dragonfly and mosquito, large light boxes display essential “Did you know” information like its features, habitat, diet, lifespan, distribution as well as predators and threats.

Although I seem rather brave among the mega-sized replicas, I don’t particularly feel the same when I see the live specimens.

Hidden among leafy fronds inside a glass showcase, are the cleverly camouflaged stick insects and it takes me a while to identify them.

When I glance at the next glass showcase, I get a sudden flashback to the 1996 musical comedy, Joe’s Apartment, because it is filled with a colony of Hissing Cockroaches!

CYBER HEALTH
I leave the Megabugs to find my way into a shuttle — actually an elevator — that whisks me up into the mysterious world of Midnunvora where young people are encouraged to be iZ Heroes as they pick up skills on cyber wellness and learn how to interact safely online.

An iZ Hero interactive experience in the world’s first interactive exhibition that provides fun and interactive game elements and animated characters to empower children to confidently deal with cyber risks also promises to be interesting.

This exhibit guides children aged 6-13 and their parents in cyber security awareness and safe and responsible online behaviour.

I walk through a capsule with posters on its walls, emblazoned with messages that bombard youths with tempting requests to stay online.

At the entrance to iZ Headquarters, I meet with wise old Master Naam, the yoda-like conscience who motivates and empowers youths to respond appropriately to cyber threats.

“Safety in the real world and in the online world” is the message for children and parents as they experience the 20-minute long exhibit.

Through info plaques and interactive games, they learn to recognise what “infollution” is, a word coined from “information” and “pollution”, and the many dangers that lurk in the online community.

As more young children start to use smart phone devices, holistic cyber wellness education for children is vital because they may be accidentally exposed to harmful content or individuals online.

Developed by infollutionZERO, a non-profit organisation based in South Korea, in collaboration with Nanyang Technological University and the National Institute of Education, the iZ Hero experience includes a web game, online portal and comic book in addition to the interactive digital exhibition.

In the final part of the exhibit, I pause to watch a Think You Know...” documentary by the BBC and its strong message gives me the shudders.

As I take the shuttle out of Midnunvora, I’m struck by the sobering truth that our children can easily fall prey to people with evil intentions online.

The article can be read here


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Source: The New Straits Times (Online)