Natural History Museum – Behind the Scenes

July 6, 2017

Early on Friday 23rd June, 44 pupils from Years 9 and 10 set off from Noadswood and headed for London.  On arrival, and after some confusion over directions, we entered the Natural History Museum.  We were greeted by Alastair Hendry and Jan Beccaloni who ushered us into a studio where we were to take part in a “meet the scientist” session.  Much to the horror of some of us, including Mrs Guppy, Jan’s specialist subject is spiders and she proceeded to enlighten us about these much reviled creatures for the next half an hour.  Arranged in trays only a few feet in front of us was a selection of spiders, their moults and some of the incredible traps that they make from the silk that we know as cobwebs.  Not only that but we were surrounded on 3 sides by screens with up close and personal images of some of the speaker’s favourite arachnids.  The pupils were a pleasure to be with however as they soon became engrossed in the session asking well informed and relevant questions, with a few brave souls wandering down to the front at the end of the session to get a closer look at the specimens.

The pupils were then split into groups of 9 and in these small teams were led down into the basement to view the “Spirit Collection”.  The museum is primarily a research centre and holds millions of specimens preserved in spirit along with the public exhibits seen in the main body of the museum.  The specimens are kept in air conditioned vaults sealed by an airlock system, and range from tiny sloths, mice and other small furries up to the 8 metre long giant squid kept in a huge tank in the main storage facility.  The walls were lined with jars upon jars and in a small case at the far end there are some of the actual specimens that Charles Darwin collected during his historic voyage on The Beagle.  We left this area feeling privileged to have been invited, and once again the pupils behaved impeccably (bar the occasional photo bomb!) demonstrating their interest and enthusiasm by asking searching and inspired questions of our guide.

This left each group with a couple of hours to explore the museum, eat lunch and visit the gift shop.  Jack came back with a dinosaur tail whilst others opted for magnetic stones which I am sure will become the next “fidget spinner” to challenge the patience of some of the staff back in school.  The museum itself has a wide variety of exhibits, ranging from the dinosaurs (now with animatronix) and the formation of the Earth, through Natural Selection to hands on displays about the human body and an earthquake simulation.  All too soon it was time to leave and we headed off to board the coach.

A huge thank you must go to Mrs Guppy, Mrs Huttley, Mr Woods and Dr Doug for agreeing to join the trip, and to the pupils who conducted themselves beautifully and were a credit to themselves, their families and to Noadswood.  Thanks must also go to the staff at the Natural History Museum who put on such a fantastic day for our pupils, and who in return praised them for their excellent behaviour and engagement throughout the day.