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Magic seeds and learning orchard

Chris Johnston on the delights of the Dome

THE MESSAGE of the Work Zone at the Millennium Dome is simple: work in the 21st century will be utterly different from what we have known and we will all need transferable skills to survive.

The zone is the first port-of-call for visitors. Four-storey-high revolving panels depicting a huge bookshelf, a factory and an orchard make it hard to miss.

The exhibits are eye-catching and get their point across in playful ways: giant electronic organisers list the employment patterns of the future, such as job-sharing, virtual teams, or remote working.

A skills workshop area reinforces the key idea that we will have more than one job and will therefore need core skills such as problem-solving and team-work. Visitors can test some of these skills with the world's largest table football game.

After this, the Learning Zone awaits. It was put after Work to demonstrate that obtaining the skills for the new world of employment can be fun.

Visitors enter a "school corridor", complete with the usual sounds and smells including boiled cabbage, before proceeding into one of wo cinemas that resemble a school auditorium.

Lord Puttnam, creative adviser to the zone, said the nine-minute film, Lily and the Magic Seed, highlights the fact that future learning will be different from traditional schooling in almost every way. What follows is a heart-warming tale of the seed that erupts into a tree in Lily's bedroom and takes her family to a world where "all their goals are achievable" (her Mum ends up with an Open University degree, for example).

As the film ends, the screen rises and we go through to the mirrored "learning orchard", complete with grass, trees, fairy lights and pods with screens.

The Tesco Schoolnet 2000 is the endpoint of the zone. The "Domesday Book" created by more than 130,000 UK students can be seen and searched.

After this, visitors can order material about lifelong learning.

With 13 other zones, some perhaps more exciting, visitors may not go home and enrol at a local FE college, but if only a fraction of them change the way they think about learning the zones' job will have been done.

For tickets call 0870 606 2000

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