Take a walk on the wild side;Arts

2nd July 1999 at 01:00
Come and see our groovy floor," says Dee Davison, education manager of Dynamic Earth. The education wing of the new building is not yet complete, the first school groups will not be here until August, and the floor is still swathed in plastic, but underneath we can see a fantasic Marmoleum world of wildlife. Owls swoop through an oak woodland, sea creatures lie dotted along a shoreline, and more exotic animals creep and swing through the rainforest.

When Dee Davison landed the job with Dynamic Earth, she said she wanted the education service to appeal to all the senses and emotions, "generating responses of awe and wonder". She has been as good as her word. With nothing in place but the floor, the Dynamic Discovery Rooms, as she has dubbed the two classrooms, are clearly going to be stunningly unlike any normal classroom environment.

"The last thing I wanted was for children to go round, have a mind-blowing experience, then walk into the education wing and think, hmph," she says. With a volcano exploding out of the wall, and artists carrying the themes of the flooring up onto walls, ceilings and windows, few children will be bored here.

The education department has only three staff, but these two classrooms, tucked in at the side of the building, are sure to be the heart of the Dynamic Earth experience.

The basis of the education service will be exploration of the science introduced. Education packs for each of the galleries will give priority to those most popular with primary schools. But the education service will not stop there. "I'm hoping Dynamic Earth will stimulate a lot of creativity. It shouldn't just be seen as science, but truly cross-curricular," says Ms Davison. So the Dynamic Earth resource chests, which schools can borrow, will contain fiction as well as non-fiction, photographs as well as microscope slides. And the exploratory workshops, which will run for a week each term, will be co-hosted by musicians and artists as well as scientists.

Most school visits will consist of a 60 to 90-minute tour of Dynamic Earth, then an hour in the education wing. Ms Davison is particularly fired up by the idea of the virtual microscope, developed by the Open University. This bit of cybermagic allows the user to select slides, rotate them, look at them under polarised light, and presumably see something more interesting than their own eyelashes.

"We can offer themed programmes - water, weather or whatever," says Dee Davison, "and we will be able to accommodate shorter visits, with groups dipping into parts of Dynamic Earth rather than spending the full 90 minutes going round."

School visits are available Monday to Sunday, 10am-6pm from Easter until the end of October, and Wednesday to Sunday, 10am-5pm from November until Easter. Prices: pound;2.50 a child or pound;1 for under-fives. Free visits for teachers will run from August 24 until October 23. In-service training is available. Tel: 0131 550 7800

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