Practice English everyday with VOA Special English

Thursday, May 2, 2013 | Latest audio lessons → VOA Learning English

Outdoor classrooms help students understand the natural world



From VOA Learning English, this is the 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 has redesigned an outdoor space into a living exhibit. The one and a half hectare area used to include a parking lot. Now, it welcomes birds, butterflies and many other living things. Teacher Eva Eng has visited the museum's outdoor campus with her students. She says they enjoyed the experience.

The children were learning about plant science in school. Museum scientists come outside to describe plants and insects in the natural setting of this outdoor laboratory. Greg Pauly studies turtles. He tells students how urban development has changed the habitat of turtles like the western pond turtle. He says these animals are happiest around small bodies of water that grow and shrink with the seasons.

Today, with development, there is much more permanent water, like the pond at the Natural History Museum itself. The scientist says the changing habitat is one reason why western pond turtles are disappearing. In addition to science lessons, the open-air exhibit provides contact with nature in a way that city children rarely get.

Landscape architect Mia Lehrer says children can get real-life answers to questions they may have. Outdoor classrooms help students understand how the natural world is interconnected and how living things need habitat to survive. Museum official Karen Wise says the whole museum is opening up to an indoor-outdoor experience.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Laurel Bowman. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 11Apr2013)