The Natural History Museum in Oxford – or as our guide says it’s called, the dinosaur museum – holds many preserved specimens of insects, dinosaurs, ancient human bones, and many other natural items. EF Academy Oxford students and staff are very fortunate to be able to have such easy access to such interesting museums as this, as well as being able to attend various workshops just like the one attended at the Museum of Natural History recently.
It started with a very windy walk through the Oxford Brookes University Campus, leading us to the Oxford University collection of museums. Once we got into the museum, we met with our guide who brought us into a lecture room to give a presentation about evolution and how insects have adapted to their environments over hundreds of thousands and millions of years. She even brought out cockroaches as an example, having varying horn sizes and speeds to gain advantages in mating, and let any willing students hold them! She also showed us something closer to home, with human taste buds, giving us small sheets of paper with a chemical from poisonous plants. A very long time ago, before humans cultivated their own food, tasting poisons in their food was a valuable skill. If you put this paper on your tongue and immediately tasted something, you still had the trait to detect these poisons in food, and vice versa.
After we had a hands-on look at evolution during the lecture, we were able to go upstairs to see where Darwin first ever spoke about evolution – not technically Darwin though, as he sent a friend on his behalf on account of thoughts against evolution by the church. After being told about the history of the attic of the museum in a library which would have contained specimens in this time period, we got to climb another flight of stairs to see where debates about evolution would have first taken place! This was a very interesting experience, as you are able to imagine what it would have been like to watch those who were so beyond their time introduce such controversial ideas!
It is always fantastic to be able to gain new knowledge, especially when you are able to gain such inter-disciplinary knowledge as with history and science. This trip left us to wonder, what new knowledge will be gained in the future regarding evolution, and how will our descendants look different than you and I?
Here’s what other students had to say:
“What I loved the most is the part where we went to the top floor of the museum and saw the library where Darwin’s friend and this religious guy (bishop of Oxford) argued about evolution theory.”
“It was very historical and the library smelled like old wood. We also had the honour to see the collection of hundreds of examples that back up evolution which were collected from the last few centuries.”
“During this trip I learnt a lot of things but the thing I liked the most was to see the evolution of different animals because I understand now that they changed due to environmental pressure or to have an advantage. I also appreciated the presentation that helped me to understand better Darwin’s theory.”
“The museum had a lot of spectacular different objects and it was interesting to walk around and see how animals have evolved and changed throughout the years.”
“I really enjoyed the museum yesterday, from the lecture to the exhibition. I think having seen those amazing historical precious exhibits intrigues me more to be focused on the subject. Wandering around the museum I was able to enhance my knowledge, especially about the topic diversity. Now I understand that topic better. Thank you for providing us with that opportunity.”
Written by Kiera Martin, current student at EF Academy Oxford