Science Centre Edutainment

A family snow-tubing down the
slope in Snow City
“Winter jacket and boots are provided…Wearing of long pants is essential to keep warm in the -10 temperature…” I read the media brief with an involuntary shiver and make a mental note to also wear thick socks and bring my scarf along.  I think Snow City at the Singapore Science Centre is indeed close enough for some cool fun instead of travelling half-way round the world to escape our tropical heat.  The Singapore Science Centre has been presenting unique and relevant exhibitions to put the fun in learning about science and technology since 1997 and Snow City is a fitting end to my exciting edutainment itinerary there.

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 their 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 of people to 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!

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 between 6 and 13 and their parents in cyber security awareness and safe and responsible online behaviour.  Armed with a Gallery Map, I follow the signs and the excited chatter of students and family groups to start my own edutainment discovery trail in the Singapore Science Centre.

Freezing Fun

A short walk down a covered corridor takes me into Snow City, South East Asia’s only permanent indoor snow chamber, next to the Science Centre.  The excitement is infectious as I join a throng of visitors who are pulling on fleecy coats and padded gloves.  I’m glad for my thick socks as I fit my feet into winter boots and clomp my way through a chilled room and let the freezing temperatures in the Ice Gallery hit me.

Peggy with Mohd Saiful Mohd Sahak, freezing in the Ice Gallery
My eyes are riveted to a long queue of visitors on one side of the slope with their arms clutching rubber tubes, waiting for their turn to snow-tube down the 60-meter long snow slope.  On the other side, there is a charming Candy House for kids but the excitement is clearly centered on the slope.  Thrill-seeking visitors are snow-tubing down individually or locked in groups, in a tremendous rush accompanied by earsplitting screams – and they promptly get up to join the queue again for their next exciting ride down!

Snow City is a popular destination 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 and the kids throwing 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!

Walking among the megabugs in the exhibit

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 a 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 modeled 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!

Brave boy having an experience with a Hissing Cockroach!
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 marveling 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. 

If I seem rather brave among the mega size creatures, 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

Walk through this capsule to Midnunvora for iZ Hero fun
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 on line.  I walk through a capsule with posters on its walls, emblazoned with messages that bombard youths with tempting requests to stay on line.  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 recognize what “infollution” is, a word coined from information + 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. 

Students play interactive games to learn to be iZ Heroes
Developed by infollutionZERO, a non-profit organization 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 with the sobering truth that our children can easily fall prey to people with evil intentions online.

Fast Facts

Singapore Science Centre is located at 15 Science Centre Road, Singapore 609081.  Open daily from 10am to 6pm.  Entrance fees: Adult S$9, Child (3 – 16 years) S$5, Senior Citizens (55 years and above) S$6.  Megabugs Return! is on until 18 August 2013 at the Annexe; Entrance fees: Adult S$16, Child (3 – 12 years) S$13.  Singapore Science Fest 2013 is now on till August 4.  Visit website:

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Life & Times on 25 July 2013

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