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A Living Science Exhibit Grows at a Museum

Children learn about plant science at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
Children learn about plant science at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Read, listen and learn English with this story. Double-click on any word to find the definition in the Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary.

This is the VOA Special English 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 is working to bring the indoors to the outdoors for its visitors.

The museum has redesigned an outdoor space into a living exhibit. This is a big change for the one and a half hectare area. It used to include a parking lot. Now, instead of cars, it welcomes birds, butterflies and other living things.

EVA ENG: "What else do the plants need, Jaime?"

CHILDREN: "Sunshine!"

Teacher Eva Eng and her young students recently visited the museum's outdoor campus. Ms. Eng says they enjoyed their experience. The children were learning about plant science in school.

EVA ENG: "They really like hands-on things, getting their hands in the mud, and planting seeds, watering them, watching them grow."

Scientists who work at the museum come outside to describe plants and insects in the natural setting of this outdoor laboratory.

Greg Pauly specializes in studying turtles, like the western pond turtle. He tells the students how development has changed its natural habitat. He says these turtles are happiest around small bodies of water that grow and shrink with the seasons.

GREG PAULY: "You know, one hundred fifty years ago, before there were very many people here, all the streams were just seasonal streams. And the western pond turtle loved that habitat. And with people, we have changed the habitat."

Today, he says, there is a lot more permanent water, like a pond at the Natural History Museum itself. And he says the changing habitat is one reason why western pond turtles are shrinking in number.

In addition to science lessons, the open-air exhibit can provide contact with nature in a way that some city children rarely get.

Landscape architect Mia Lehrer says children can get real-life answers to questions they may be wondering about.

MIA LEHRER: "What does it mean to see what strawberry plants look like, that they do not come from a container in the store? And a tomato -- children have been asked, 'Where does ketchup come from?' They do not know."

Only parts of the new outdoor campus are open now. But Karen Wise says more changes are coming. Ms. Wise is the museum's vice president for education and exhibits.

KAREN WISE: "Now we are opening up the whole museum, making it an indoor-outdoor experience, so that our visitors can be a part of the experience."

The work is expected to be completed by June of twenty-thirteen. Next year is the museum's one hundredth anniversary.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report. You can watch a video about the new outdoor exhibit at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County at You can also read, listen and learn English with our programs and activities. I'm Bob Doughty.

Contributing: Mike O'Sullivan and Jerilyn Watson