Raffles Museum Of Biodiversity Research Open House

I have always wanted to find an opportunity for my family to visit the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research. When I chanced upon this Open House, there was no hesitation in registering for this rare learning opportunity! It’s a chance for me to learn and for my daughters, A and M, to get enthusiastic about the nature and biodiversity that co-exist in our concrete jungle.

We attended the “Animal Teeth Forensics” workshop and were amazed at the amount of information that can be gathered, just from teeth and skull structure.

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All belonging to carnivores: false gharial, crocodile and the tiger. Notice that the false gharial has a more pointed skull structure than the crocodile but both have monodont teeth. The tiger impresses us with its majestic canines which are used for tearing its prey. The immense jaws of the tiger tells us what a powerful predator it once had been.

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The false gharial

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The huge skull structure and the endless sharp, inward pointing monodont teeth belonging to the shark make it undoubtedly the king of the sea.

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The tiger, on the other hand, has a heterodont set of teeth structure. Being the king of the forest, even its premolars and molars are sharp, all built for the life of a predator!

Our next stop was the “All about Crabs” workshop, conducted by the ever passionate but knowledgable Miss Crabby!

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Miss Crabby took pain to introduce different species of crustacea to us – crab, lobster, prawn, crayfish. Just name it, she probably had introduced the specie to us.

I am most amazed by the coconut crab.

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It is able to wonder from ground to roof with ease. Look at the giant pincers. Imagine how it feels like to get pinched by one of these. There are people who
keep it as a pet!

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Finally, the children were given a crab specimen to observe, draw and name. Cool!

This is definitely a wonderful museum visit and it makes us all look forward to the opening of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum in 2014! It’s high time we pay attention to educating our young the biodiversity that’s left amidst our environment. That’s the least we can do in our bid to preserve, study and protect what we have been blessed with. Thanks for this wonderful learning experience!

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MacRitchie Reservoir to my rescue!

Dr David Bickford (Source: NUS) has assigned us to plan a field trip as one of the final assignments for our MW5201 module.This is a tough one.. I am hoping to plan a field trip that involves the interdisciplinary study of science. An interdisciplinary approach to the learning of science would make the learning more fun and real-world, isn’t it? My interdisciplinary study involves the use of interdisciplinary approach (historical background, industrial techniques, economics consideration, ethics) to the study of organic chemistry. I hope to include different disciplines in this assignment as well.

Science education has to involve the use of mutli-disciplinary lens from the sciences and the humanities in order for our future generation to understand the complexity of today’s problems. Watch this clip from Professor Brian Green and appreciate how he advocates the importance of science education (Source: youtube video) to bring about continued improvement to life and culture and global dialogue in the face of today’s opportunities.
While strolling along Prunus Trail (Source: NParks) at MacRitchie Reservoir Park (Source: NParks) with my family one day, it suddenly dawned on me that MacRitchie Reservoir Park would be a suitable place to incorporate multidisciplinary elements of learning! It’s a perfect outdoor learning lab for our students. Not only can they test the water quality at different parts of the reservoir, they can also learn to relate their findings to the environment. After that, a stroll along Prunus Trail will give our students a chance to appreciate the biodiversity that still exists today and more importantly, the ecosystem services (Source: Wikipedia) that nature provides. They get to learn about chemistry, geography, biology and civics education in this field trip! They get to learn about their world! Isn’t this more meaningful than memorizing facts in the classroom? 

Starting from the reservoir deck, we walked to the dam before proceeding to the kayak platform. These may be suitable stations for our students to conduct some simple water testing. Water testing parameters (Source: PUB) must be introduced to them prior to the field trip and I will have to teach them how to use the testing kits and how to interpret the data. There are very different types of human activities at these 3 chosen areas, so I would expect the results of water quality testing to be different. 
At the reservoir deck
At the dam area
At the kayak platform
After testing the water quality, perhaps I can plan an easy stroll along Prunus Trail. Hopefully, students get an opportunity to appreciate how different species of flora and fauna coexist in our tropical rainforest and how we have benefited from the ecosystem services they provide.

A dragonfly, an important pollinator, is commonly seen along Prunus Trail

A water monitor lizard uses its tongue to sense its environment

My younger daughter, M, caught sight of a water monitor lizard relaxing in the safe water environment and captured it on video. 

A macaque tries to crack a nut.

Some of us find these primates ferocious and also find their “invasion” a problem. However, Dr Jane Goodhall, a world renowned primatologist, continues her tireless effort in advocating a concerted and compassionate coexistance of humans, animals and the environment. (Source: Jane Goodhall Institute (Singapore)).


As we stroll along Prunus Trail, M, captured a hardworking spider spinning a web. With no trained eyes, we were not able to identify the species of spider. 
We came across the Tembusu tree (Fagraea fragrans) (Source: Wild Singapore), the tree which forms the background of our $5 note and whose bark has anti-bacterial proeperties and the “Cheng Tng” tree (Scaphium macrophodum), whose ripe seeds form the brown jelly in our favourite dessert when soaked in water. 

It was an eye-opening experience for me and I am sure I will get a lot of fun planning the field trip. Let’s hope that this field trip will create a platform for my students to have fun learning about their environment and science!