Science Experience Week visit to the Natural History Museum by Raquel Sklar

Today I visited the Natural History Museum for Science Experience Week. I and several other year 11 students, interested in possible science careers, had the opportunity to learn about some of the museum’s collections and the possible types of jobs available at museums.

Some examples of the jobs available are: curators, conservators, exhibit designers and archivists. Curators are in charge of managing collections and often seek funding to provide the museum with interesting displays. Conservators care for and preserve artefacts by using scientific methods of preservation and researching each individual item. Exhibit designers form and present exhibits in interesting ways to catch the public’s attention. Archivists maintain records of collections in databases and arrange these in a neat and organised format.

We also learnt about the preservation of animals through various methods such as taxidermy (the preservation of an animal through ‘stuffing’) and preserving an animal in ethanol! The museum was filled with different animals; we even saw an octopus that had been preserved since the 1850s! We also found out about the adaptations and behaviours of animals. Did you know small cockroaches nibble the antennae of larger cockroaches to hinder their ability to find mates?!

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The Natural History Museum is currently holding an exhibition called ‘The Brain Diaries’. As you can guess, it’s all about the brain! The museum has a huge area upstairs devoted to showing the development of the brain from birth all the way to the end of life! The exhibit shows how your brain changes and how the environment it develops in shapes who you are. During childhood, your brain makes up to 1,000 connections every second. Through teenage years the brain begins to lose unused connections and strengthen others. At this stage your brain has the same capacity as an adult’s and its ability to learn is greater than ever! After the age of 25 your brain has fully matured and as you age, so does your brain. However, your brain continues to develop new connections and adapts your ability to learn. This is only a small insight into the power of the brain… why not visit the Natural History Museum to find out more?

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This trip was organised by Science Oxford for Science Experience Week. Science Oxford is part of The Oxford Trust and provides interactive and innovative workshops to inspire young people with the study and application of science. I would like to thank Science Oxford for this trip and Oxfordshire Apprenticeships for taking me as it was a brilliant experience. It was great to learn about the museum ‘behind the scenes’ and discover the way the brain develops. I hadn’t visited the museum for a long time; this trip has inspired me to visit again soon!

Raquel Sklar, Work Experience Student, Year 11, The Cherwell School