Darwin Centre inspires scientists of tomorrow

Press release - 16 July 2009

Natural History Museum showcases new schools programme in the UK’s most innovative new science learning space, as countdown to autumn term begins

In the new school year, teachers and secondary science students visiting the new Darwin Centre at the Natural History Museum will be able to explore real science in a unique and inspiring out-of-classroom environment, through encounters with world-class scientists and exploration of iconic specimens.

This £78 million landmark building project completes the Darwin Centre, a state-of-the-art scientific research and collections facility that will be used by over 200 scientists at a time. Up to 2,500 visitors, including over 500 students, per day will journey deep into the heart of its 65-metre-long, eight-storey-high cocoon to discover an awe-inspiring new public space where students will engage, and marvel at, real scientists at work. It is the first public space in any museum designed specifically to provide science learning opportunities through direct interaction with collections, scientists and laboratories.

In the build up to the grand opening in September, the Museum has announced details of its innovative and free schools programme. In the Darwin Centre’s state-of-the-art Attenborough Studio, the latest audio-visual technology and encounters with real scientists will enrich the science curriculum and set the stage for original, interactive science shows for school groups of up to 60 students…. if they survive an outbreak of a mystery disease.

A highlight of the programme, Scenario Science: Disease Outbreak, is an immersive multi-media event that will allow Key Stage 4 students to experience the practical role of disease research and its real-world applications through TV news clips, interviews with scientists and class debate. It is designed to give students a greater understanding of how to interpret and use evidence to make decisions, and to explain key techniques in diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Dr Honor Gay, Head of Learning at the Natural History Museum, said ‘At the Museum we are passionate
about inspiring further study of science and bringing the process of science alive for teachers and students. Our scientists and specimens enable us to complement the classroom: with over 300 world-class scientists, the Natural History Museum will provide powerful enrichment for the How Science Works strand of the secondary science curriculum. The new Darwin Centre programme has been developed as part of the Museum’s commitment to secondary science, giving students and teachers a unique insight into science research processes and applications, and a new perspective on the relevance of their own scientific knowledge and skills.’

Other events include:

  • Animal Vision (Key Stage 2 to 3) is a live animal show that investigates eye adaptations and reveals a world only visible to certain reptiles and invertebrates. Students will discover how Museum research uncovered the earliest known eye and why scorpions glow in ultraviolet light. The event includes encounters with live scorpions, iguanas and snakes.
  • The Variety Show (Key Stage 3) will provide a window on the Earth’s diversity as students are introduced to the Museum’s largest and smallest specimens. They will find out how scientists classify life, how humans fit into the system and get hands on with a full-scale, lifelike model of a giant squid.

Gay continues, ‘We hope the Museum’s secondary school programme makes a significant contribution to addressing the national decline in take up for science A-levels and undergraduate study. We want to inspire the scientists of tomorrow by showing why science is important in the real world.’

All events are free, but advance booking is essential. Call the Bookings Office on 020 7942 5555 or visit www.nhm.ac.uk/education for more information.


Notes for editors

  • Major supporters of the second phase of the Darwin Centre include the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Wellcome Trust, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Cadogan family, Professor Anthony and Mrs Angela Marmont, GlaxoSmithKline plc, the Rufford Maurice Laing Foundation, the Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation and Anglo American plc.
  • Selected by Time Out in 2007 as one of the Seven Wonders of London, the Natural History Museum is also a world-leading science research centre. Through its collections and scientific expertise, the Museum is
    helping to protect the extraordinary richness and diversity of the natural world with groundbreaking projects in 68 countries.
  • The Natural History Museum welcomed 147,000 booked school visitors in 2008/09.