This is the VOA Special English Education Report.
Outdoors, in the open air, seems like a natural place to study natural science. It also makes sense in a place like Southern California where people like to be outside a lot.
Now the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is working to bring the indoors to the outdoors for its visitors. The museum has redesigned an outdoor space into a living exhibit. This is a big change for the one and a half hectare area.
It used to include a parking lot. Now, instead of cars, it welcomes birds, butterflies and other living things. Scientists who work at the museum come outside to describe plants and insects in the natural setting of this outdoor laboratory.
Greg Pauly specializes in studying turtles, like the western pond turtle. He tells the students how development has changed its natural habitat. He says these turtles are happiest around small bodies of water that grow and shrink with the seasons.
He tells the students that one hundred fifty years ago, before there were very many people in the area, all the streams were just seasonal streams. "And the western pond turtle loved that habitat," he says, "and with people, we have changed the habitat."
Today, he says, there is a lot more permanent water, like a pond at the Natural History Museum itself. And he says the changing habitat is one reason why western pond turtles are shrinking in number.In addition to science lessons, the open-air exhibit can provide contact with nature in a way that some city children rarely get.
Landscape architect Mia Lehrer says children can get real-life answers to questions they may be wondering about. For instance, she says some children do not know that ketchup comes from tomatoes. And they can see what strawberry plants look like, to know that strawberries do not just come from a container in the store. Only parts of the new outdoor campus are open now. But Karen Wise says more changes are coming.
Ms. Wise is the museum's vice president for education and exhibits. She says, "Now we are opening up the whole museum, making it an indoor-outdoor experience, so that our visitors can be a part of the experience." The work is expected to be completed by June of twenty-thirteen. Next year is the museum's one hundredth anniversary.
For VOA Special English, I'm Alex Villarreal.
(Adapted from a radio program broadcast 17May2012)