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Stimulating Interest In Science And Nurturing Art Appreciation

Last update: 14/07/2009
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DRIVING FORCE... Tengku Nasariah Tengku Syed Ibrahim is a firm believer in the seemlessness of science, art and music. She strongly advocates the adoption of a holistic approach towards education. Pic:Mohd Azhar Ibrahim
By Mohd Azhar Ibrahim

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) -- PETRONAS is highly committed to the culture and practice of life-long learning and recognises that the learning process can also be effectively facilitated in an informal and people-friendly setting.

In adopting a holistic approach towards education, apart from educational and training institutions like the Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS (UTP) located in Bandar Seri Iskandar, Perak, PETRONAS Management Training Centre (PERMATA) in Bangi, Selangor and Institut Teknologi Petroleum PETRONAS (INSTEP) in Batu Rakit, Terengganu; PETRONAS has also established the Petrosains Discovery Centre and GALERI PETRONAS to stimulate interest and promote understanding in science, and nurture art appreciation among Malaysians regardless of age or status.

Petrosains, which is Malaysia's first interactive science discovery centre, is dedicated to reveal the story behind the oil and gas industry amidst a rich and stimulating environment.

Through its interactive and entertaining exhibits, Petrosains hopes to encourage today's children to become future scientists by stimulating their curiosity in science.

GALERI PETRONAS, on the other hand, provides a world-class venue for Malaysian and foreign artists to display their works to the public, to help nurture an interest in art among Malaysians from all walks of life.

Working in collaboration with international institutions, GALERI PETRONAS promotes Malaysian artworks abroad while at the same time foster cultural exchanges and learning opportunities that contribute to the development of Malaysian art practice and awareness in tandem with international trends.

The two institutions, while operating in different spheres of influence, facilitate and complement each other by providing an illuminating encounter in two separate but equally important aspects of our daily life.

While Petrosains creates a rich and stimulating environment for the public to learn about science and technology, GALERI PETRONAS makes art accessible, enjoyable and engaging to the public.

STIMULATING CURIOSITY AND DEVELOPING INQUISITIVE MINDS

Since its opening on 25 March 1999, the Petrosains Discovery Centre has never ceased to spark curiosity and connect science and technology to everyday life through fun-filled exhibitions and activities, for over three million visitors of all ages who have passed through its door.

Using innovative methods of presentation, more than 500 interactive exhibits spread over 70,000 square feet of exhibition space occupying levels 4 and 5 of both the PETRONAS Twin Towers; demystify science, conveying its beauty, showing its necessity and making the understanding of science accessible to the general public.

Facts and figures of science combine with the excitement, emotion and energy of the theatre, provide a stimulating environment for the public to learn and appreciate the science and technology behind the petroleum industry as well as the underlying principles behind science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

"In the two to three hours that they spend here, we try to 'touch' the child or adult visitor by making them realise that science is everywhere and anywhere and cover all aspects of their lives."

"We want them to come out feeling excited about science, having their own questions and interested in finding out more," Petrosains Chief Executive Officer Tengku Nasariah Tengku Syed Ibrahim told Bernama in an interview recently.

The latest addition to the lineup, the Petrosains DinoTrek 2 interactive exhibition featuring dinosaurs and other information on the prehistoric era, which was officially launched on 11 March 2009 in conjunction with Petrosains 10th anniversary; is currently the star attraction.

"DinoTrek 2 showcases a high-tech interactive exhibition, including some animatronics in the form of robotic dinosaurs with interactive features that encourages learning experiences in an engaging and entertaining manner."

"DinoTrek 2, which uses best practices as well as the latest science centre's research on effective learning approaches, was fully conceptualised, designed and developed by the Petrosains in-house team," said Tengku Nasariah.

Similarly, Petrosains school and community outreach programmes have managed to enrich the lives of a wide cross-section of the community.

SCHOOL PROGRAMMES

Petrosains has developed various internal and community outreach programmes for school children and teachers, aimed to nurture and sustain interest in science and technology.

"The Science Action Team and the Creative Science for Schools are designed to inculcate the culture of an inquiry-based approach to learning, while the Teachers Fellowship and Petrosains Teachers Workshop help teachers to welcome questions and apply innovative and interactive methods in the learning process in the classroom," Tengku Nasariah said.

Petrosains school programmes had contributed significantly to PETRONAS winning the prestigious Prime Minister's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Award for Education for 2007.

VOLUNTEER SCHEME

The Petrosains Volunteer Scheme, introduced in 1999, which is open to those from 17 to 65 years old, aims to promote the spirit of volunteerism at nurturing interest towards science and technology.

Volunteers are given basic training in science, teamwork and communication skills to boost their self-confidence.

"They get to be Petrosains ambassadors and gain positive experience that will put them in good stead while we get their dedicated labour."

"We are also delighted to have a couple of pensioners on board, who are dedicated and good at their task as volunteers," she added.

The Petrosains Volunteer Scheme won PETRONAS the 2008 Petroleum Economist Award for the Best Youth Education Programme.

The Petroleum Economist is an international magazine which recognises the excellence of those making significant contributions to the energy industry.

COMMUNITY OUTREACH PROGRAMMES

At the Fifth Science Centre World Congress held in Toronto on 19 June 2008, science centre operators agreed that their activities should be extended to places and communities where such centres are not available.

Called The Toronto Declaration, it was signed by Tengku Nasariah as President of the Asia Pacific Network of Science and Technology Centres (ASPAC).

True to form, Petrosains has many community outreach programmes, which among others include the Petronas StreetSmart Travelling Exhibition, Petrosains PlaySmart and Sahabat Petrosains.

Petrosains StreetSmart conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the Road Safety Department, Ministry of Transport and the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research is an interactive travelling exhibition promoting road safety.

Since its inception in 2001, it has impacted almost one million children and parents and more than 300 schools throughout Malaysia.

"If we want to educate Malaysians on road safety, we should start them young. We want them to understand the science concepts behind road safety. Of course we target the parents too," Tengku Nasariah said.

In PlaySmart, Petrosains science facilitators visit schools (from preschool to secondary level) to conduct science based road-safety programs which include science shows, hands-on activities and quizzes.

Alternatively, schools can organise educational trips to PlaySmart centres in Langkawi, Johor Baharu and Penang; where students get to try the myriad of interactive exhibits and engage in fun and educational science-based activities.

Sahabat Petrosains is organised in collaboration with the Department of Orang Asli Affairs and the Education Ministry, to address the educational needs of the children of the Orang Asli in Peninsular Malaysia as well as indigenous communities of Sabah and Sarawak.

"We want to open up their minds to the fascinating science surrounding their everyday lives, especially in their natural environment," Tengku Nasariah said.

"The programme is carried out in two phases. First, we visit the community and conduct activities at their premises. Then we bring the children over for a two-night fun-filled camp-in at Petrosains," Tengku Nasariah added.

"From the feedback we received, the experience has actually made the children eager to attend school and learn more about science," Tengku Nasariah said.

NURTURING ART APPRECIATION

In the fast-paced and highly stressed society of today, where technology and science appear to be always at the forefront, some might wonder about the place of art.

A good artist will, through a medium of his or her choice, choose a subject, colour, and texture to evoke and uncover feelings, some of which we were previously unaware of.

Art triggers emotions and is important as an intellectual stimulant. Art advances culture and civilisation by provoking thought, introspection and discussion.

Beyond creative aesthetics and historical significance as social commentary over time, it is the cornerstone of creative thinking, expression and innovation.

These are essential elements in holistic human development, a central focus in PETRONAS' philosophy.

It is with such realisation that GALERI PETRONAS was established in 1993.

Part of the philosophy behind GALERI PETRONAS is to nurture art appreciation by direct public engagement and to provide Malaysian and international artists with an international class venue to exhibit their works, apart from to foster better relations among the various races in the country through the appreciation for various ethnic arts and culture through its exhibitions.

In addition, GALERI PETRONAS is also the custodian of the PETRONAS Art Collection that comprises of 1,500 pieces of artworks which are displayed in PETRONAS premises at various countries where the company operates.

The gallery was initially located at the Dayabumi Complex, where 34 art exhibitions were held from 1993 to 1998 before it was relocated to the present location at Level 3, Suria KLCC, where it subsequently went on to host another 88 art exhibitions.

These exhibitions facilitate to increase awareness and promote the appreciation of art and culture among Malaysians from all walks of life.

Talks, slideshows, dialogues, panel discussions, forums and demonstrations specifically related to the themes of the work on display are held in conjunction with an exhibition.

To date, the gallery has held 400 art appreciation programmes for varying age and interest group attracting about 1.4 million visitors altogether.

Apart from the exhibition space, GALERI PETRONAS has an Art Resource Centre with a collection of art books, journals and audio-visual material for public reference.

Visitors can also purchase art books and supplies, catalogues and a range of unique and affordable art merchandise related to the gallery, its exhibitions and the PETRONAS Art Collection.

PROMOTING MALAYSIAN ART ABROAD

According to GALERI PETRONAS Director Hartini Abdullah, the gallery offers the public a variety of ways to engage, experience and enjoy contemporary art, both Malaysian and international, as well as the opportunity to expand and explore their creative inclination.

GALERI PETRONAS aims to provide international exposure to both artists and the public, while at the same time fostering cultural exchanges and learning opportunities on a global level.

Collaborations with international institutions and artists are an important feature in GALERI PETRONAS touring exhibition programmes targeted at raising the image and appreciation of Malaysian art and artists abroad.

GALERI PETRONAS has successfully hosted exhibitions and promoted local textile art and Malaysian art works in India, Vietnam, Australia, Japan and Sweden.

Through its various activities, GALERI PETRONAS has made a profound impact in international relations and cross-culture exchange, apart from art infrastructure development.

According to Hartini, the research and publication works of GALERI PETRONAS in documenting the Visual Art History of Malaysia has made a profound impression on the Malaysian art scene.

It is widely accepted among educators that humans are not passive recipients of knowledge but that we actively construct new knowledge based on our experiences.

The intangible reward of cultural and intellectual invigorations is impossible to quantify, but a visit to a science centre or an art gallery makes a measurable impact on most visitors.

-- BERNAMA