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Museum makes school stuff fascinating

Update: June, 22/2014 - 16:52
Riveted: A girl enjoys looking at specimens of fish displayed in the exhibition. The Organism Evolution Exhibition Room of the Viet Nam NationalMuseum of Nature opened to the public on May 15. Visitors to the exhibition are increasing steadily. — Photos Truong Vi

A newly-opened museum has been an eye-opener for children, exciting curiosity about the world around them, Vu Lan Dung discovers.

After watching a TV programme introducing the Viet Nam National Museum of Nature, ten-year-old Nguyen Minh Vuong was so curious to see the specimens on display that he demanded that his sister take him there immediately.

Walking through the gate, Vuong was welcomed by a model of Tyrannosaurus rex, a fierce carnivore that lived in the Cretaceous Period (145-66 million years ago), which he had only seen in the Jurassic Park movie series. His curiosity about the museum gradually turned into an interest in nature.

The Viet Nam National Museum of Nature under the Viet Nam Academy of Science and Technology is located in building A20, No. 18 Hoang Quoc Viet Street, Cau Giay District, Ha Noi. The museum is open from 8.30am to 11.30am and from 1pm to 5 pm. on all days except Monday and the Tet holiday.

Entrance is free. There are four 3D film shows titled Ocean Wonderland and Planet Dinosaur, exhibited free of charge in the morning and in the afternoon. Groups of more than 15 people are invited to telephone (04) 37917445 to book 3D film seats, and for a tour guide around the museum. Details can be found at: www.vnmn.ac.vn

Not only Vuong, but also other children find it interesting to discover the foundation and development of the planet, animals and plants at the museum. Since the opening of the museum's Organism Evolution Exhibition Room on May 15, many students, parents and children have visited it to gain more knowledge about nature.

With an area of more than 300 square metres, the museum displays specimens to describe the origin and history of life on earth; from life that first appeared on the planet about 3.6 billion years ago to the present.

It hosts more than 2,000 geologic and paleobiologic models with 800 fossils aged 175-203 million years. In addition, there are more than 6,000 models of animals, amphibians, reptiles, fishes, and sea creatures. Its most valued specimens include a moon fish and a tiger collected from the central province of Nghe An and from Quang Binh.

How we happened: A mother and son study evidence of the evolutionary process from apes (australopithecus afarensis) to humans (homo sapiens).

The museum also uses part of the area to exhibit types of insects, such as butterflies, dragon flies, cicadas and mantises. Moreover, viewers can see specimens of plants and mushrooms, including those used in the health sector such as cordyceps fungus and reishi mushroom (ganoderma lucidum).

As a student in the third grade at the Dong Thang Primary School, Vuong is taught basic lessons on nature at school, such as plants producing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. By visiting the museum, he understood about human evolution, from southern apes (australopithecus afarensis) to smart human beings (homo sapiens).

His sister, Nguyen Thi Sao Mai, said it was quite novel for him, and he asked her many questions on the evolutionary process. "Thanks to the exhibition, the evolution process has become clearer and more understandable. There are several things to see and hear, and the specimens are described specifically. My brother got another lesson on nature, besides the ones in the classes," she said.

To help her son visualize life on the planet, Le Thi Hai, a teacher from Phi Mo Secondary School, travelled approximately 80 kilometres from Lang Giang District in the northern province of Bac Giang to the museum. She said teachers at her son's school only showed models in small scales and drawings, and primarily taught students lessons from a textbook in biology classes.

"The museum educates students on nature, with real specimens. I will suggest a school managing board to organise trips to the museum as a way of teaching students about nature," Hai noted, adding "I think there should be museums like this one in provinces so that students living far away from the capital have the same opportunity as other pupils in the city."

Pre-historic: Fossils aged millions of years provide clues to how the foundation of the earth, and development of life on the planet.

Her son, fifth grader Bui Trung Hieu, was impressed by the skeletons of humans and animals. He looked at the specimens with concentration and continuously shared his observations with his mother. "The textbook only shows drawings of the parturition of animals and human evolution. Skeletons at the museum helped me to understand more about what I have learned at school. I am really interested now and will go back one day," he said.

Nguyen Duc Hanh from Ha Noi said he brought his four-year-old son here with the hope of instilling an interest in nature in him.

"It is the first time we have visited a museum of nature and the child enjoys the specimens of insects. This is a good place for children to learn about nature, but it will be better if it expands the exhibition room and displays motion models," he said.

More to show

Not many people know that officers of the museum put in tremendous effort to bring the museum to the public. Although it was established in 2006, the museum cannot display its nearly 30,000 specimens because the government has not granted land to construct the museum. At the moment, the Viet Nam Academy of Science and Technology lends the land to the museum temporarily.

Gigantic: A giant clam (tridacna gigas) found in the central province of Quang Ngai is on display in the museum.

Le Phuong Thao, deputy chief of the museum's communications and education office, said the museum had recently been granted 32 hectares in Ha Noi city's Quoc Oai District. She added that the construction will start in the short term.

"During the period of the construction, the museum's board of directors will keep open the exhibition room to meet public demand," she said.

Thao said in addition to specimens found in Viet Nam, the museum staff had bought others from abroad, such as human skeletons and molar teeth of mamuthus elephant in the ice age. She added that they intend to rotate displayed specimens to renew the exhibition.

People as well as forest rangers from across the country usually contact the museum to send specimens of animals and plants they have found. A couple of giant clam (tridacna gigas), which Quang Ngai border guards handed over to the museum in April, is showcased in the exhibition room. On May 27, the museum received a dead gayal from the Quang Nam forest ranger unit.

Exquisite art: Various specimens of butterflies collected from different parts of the country are shown at the museum. Students have an opportunity to recognize the immense diversity of nature through such displays.

Viet Nam is now one of 25 countries having the largest biological diversity in the world, with 300 species of land animals, 800 species of birds, 420 species of reptiles, 200 species of amphibians and 3,500 species of fishes.

Vu Thi Soi Ngan, the only museum docent currently, started working for the museum two months before the opening of the exhibition. She had spent days reading scientific materials and talked with experts to widen her knowledge of natural science. "I have found fossils the most difficult exhibit among the ones displayed. On my first guiding tour, I could not express clearly about them and had to ask an expert for help," she recalled.

After more than one month working, Ngan has realised that most people have ambiguous knowledge of natural science.

"Students often learn theories at school and do not have an opportunity to see what they study with their own eyes. After I describe the development process in nature, some students say that they have already learned it at school but have forgotten it. Therefore, a visit to the museum can be an addition to their studies," she said. — VNS

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