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Sunday, 3 August 2014

An interactive learning experience

Verterinary medicine senior lecturer Dr Tengku Rinalfi Putra giving a guided tour around the animal anatomy museum at the Edu-Park.

Verterinary medicine senior lecturer Dr Tengku Rinalfi Putra giving a guided tour around the animal anatomy museum at the Edu-Park.

Visitors to Edu-Park will discover a world that informs as well as entertains.

UNIVERSITI Putra Malaysia (UPM), the first university in Malaysia to offer tourism packages, will now give visitors the chance to join guided tours that enable experiential learning.

Edu-Park, a division under the research university’s Putra Science Park, has crafted hands-on modules at the UPM Conservatory Park. Visitors may sign up for these modules at Serdang Gallery, the nature trails, deer farm, dairy farm, equine centre, human anatomy museum and animal anatomy museum.

Aside from the guided tours and interactive activities at these places, visitors will also be able to enjoy a guided tour at the recently-completed Malay heritage museum, which was launched in April.

Each module takes between 40 minutes to two-and-a-half hours to complete.

The first phase of the park comprises nine attractions, including those listed above.

The second phase, still a work in progress, will see Edu-Park as home to a wildlife research centre, a human pathology museum and a small-scale farm which will utilise hydroponics and aquaculture farming methods.

Several visitors listening to a guided tour on one of the nature trails.
Several visitors listening to a guided tour on one of the nature trails.

Although the park isn’t completed yet, stay-at-home mum Martha Jin Lee said that she would recommend the place to parents.

“Our visits to Edu-Park have been educational and fun, and we do enjoy the modules.”

Lee said that while the modules are good, she felt like they make for a more sructured learning experience that perhaps allows less room for spontaneity on the part of the learners.

“The first two times we went to the Edu-Park, the modules had not been implemented yet.

“So, we got to tour the human anatomy museum, guided by UPM lecturer Dr Cheah Pike See. The tour then was based on my childrens’ interests and questions.

“Also, at the animal anatomy museum, the lecturers were on hand to answer whenever my children had questions or made observations. I really liked that,” she said.

Two of the many exhibits at the animal anatomy museum.
Two of the many exhibits at the animal anatomy museum.

Selangor-based Lee, who homeschools her children Nel Tan, 12, and Jo Tan, 9, has visited the park three times so far.

She said that her favourite parts of Edu-Park were the human and animal anatomy museums as well as the dairy farm, which her children really enjoyed exploring.

“Nel enjoyed the anatomy museums more because she found that the information on offer was interesting.

“However, the younger one, Jo, loved the dairy farm, as she got to learn all about the cows and how the machines were used to milk the cows.

“By special request, we were even allowed to feed the calves from large milk bottles!” she shared.

Lee added that their visit to the dairy farm was excellent thanks to the fact that experienced veterinary officer, Dr Baljit Singh, who is based at the farm, was on hand to explain the workings of the place to them.

“He was knowledgeable and passionate about what was taught. So, his enthusiasm was contagious. Dr Baljit Singh also loved answering questions,” she said.

Visitors to the UPM Equine Centre will get the chance to get up close and personal with the horses.
Visitors to the UPM Equine Centre will get the chance to get up close and personal with the horses.

Not only does the university aim to provide a conducive learning environment that is also a fun destination for visitors, UPM also hopes to increase awareness on the academic research they have conducted.

UPM vice-chancellor Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Fauzi Ramlan said the park was one way of making academic research more accessible to the community, while generating a side income for the university. He added that it can also serve as a “lab” for UPM students.

“For example, students from the Modern Languages and Communication faculty can act as tour guides for tourists.

“Those who are studying Mandarin can easily act as tour guides for visitors from China,” he said.

UPM student Nafis Naqiyudeen Nazri agrees, as he believes that the Edu-Park is certainly an effective concept for students.

“If the attractions at the park co-relate to your studies, then I’m sure it would be really good for the students as it would provide a conducive learning environment to engage in learning on their own, instead of depending on lecturers and supervisors.

“Through this different platform of knowledge, the university can also encourage more research and the development of knowledge and soft skills among us students,” he shared.

Nafis Naqiyudeen, who is pursuing a degree in human development, noted that the few attractions at the park are focused on certain courses like medicine and veterinary science.

“I hope that more attractions will be added to the park over time so that more students who are not from mainstream courses can benefit from the experiential learning experience, too,” he said.

Putra Science Park’s deputy director Dr Faridah Qamaruz Zaman, an associate professor of biology, said that the university had always hoped to utilise its facilities for the public.

“However, the idea of opening our doors for educational tourism was first mooted by former Tourism Minister Tan Sri Dr Ng Yen Yen,” said Dr Faridah.

Dr Ng had suggested that UPM could introduce tours of the nature trails and give visitors a chance to milk a cow, among other things, during the launch of UPM’s “Mother Nature Tour Trail” at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium last year.

“There is no need for visitors to go to places like New Zealand in order to experience such unique things, now that UPM is offering the same chance,” said Dr Ng.

While every facility at the Edu-Park is open to the public, Dr Faridah said that visitors are required to book their guided tours or modules three days in advance, as this would give them ample time to book their sessions and estimate the cost of the trip.

Visitors would also be expected to pay upfront for their modules or guided tours. Also, although walk-in visitors are welcome, she stressed that visitors should come in a group should they wish to have a guided tour.

“We require a minimum of 10 people to start a group for a guided tour, but cap the number at 40 due to space limitations,” she said.

Dr Faridah added that the school holidays would be the best time to visit.

“This is because we receive quite a number of visitors during that time. So, even if you don’t have 10 people in your group, we’ll be able to pair you up with another group, allowing you to go on the guided tours,” she said.

The Tourism Ministry and the university has also enlisted three travel agencies – TM Tours & Travel, Mitra Kembara and Poto Travel & Tours – to arrange trips to the park with packages priced from RM88.

Prof Mohd Fauzi added that the response to the park has been encouraging, with over 35,000 visitors in total so far.

With UPM faculty members such as verterinary medicine senior lecturer Dr Tengku Rinalfi Putra Tengku Azizan, human anatomy department head Prof Dr Fauziah Othman, and associate professor of modern languages and communications Dr Muhammad Pauzi Abdul Latif helming the guided tours at the animal anatomy, human anatomy and Malay heritage museum respectively, it is clear that the university is deploying its experts to ensure that the visitors get the most educational experience possible.

Dr Faridah hopes that local and foreign tourists alike will make full use of the opportunity to visit UPM’s Edu-Park.

“This is a golden opportunity. As you can see, you don’t have to be our students to learn and get information from our experts and faculty members,” she said.

UPM’s Edu-Park is open from 8am to 5pm on weekdays. They will be open on some weekends based on special requests. For enquiries or bookings, contact Edu-Park at 03 8947 1413/1414 or e-mail edupark.upm@gmail.com.

Related story:

Attractions galore

Tags / Keywords: Universiti Putra Malaysia UPM , Edu Park , educational tourism


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