A new approach to biology
Today we enjoy instant access to a vast amount of scientific information. The news of key scientific discoveries – in fields such as health and illness, neuroscience, new planets, climate change and environmental damage – is rapidly disseminated to the general public. While the unprecedented availability of information represents a remarkable opportunity to extend and enrich our knowledge, we also require new tools to orient ourselves in the midst of an ocean of facts and the outputs of highly specialized scientific disciplines. In recognition of this need, Natural History Museums, which conserve scientific heritage of incalculable worth, have begun to develop new means of communicating with their audiences. Their efforts are not only targeted at schools, but also at adults who wish to learn more about biology and ecology as part of a broader lifelong learning process. Against this backdrop, the Digital Diorama project is designed to combine new communication tools with innovative educational methods, in pursuit of a dual aim. The first of these aims is to spread knowledge of the key biological and ecological processes at work in faraway natural environments. The second is to foster forms of learning that not only enhance users’ knowledge but also their competence in meaningfully relating biology themes to one another and to everyday life. Users are guided to explore these themes and reflect on their relevance to their own life contexts. While only a limited number of representative aspects and connections may be explored during the Digital Diorama experience, there is a strong chance that users will subsequently encounter the same themes in real life and apply the DD method to formulate new questions, linkages and interpretations.