Science Discovery at Yayasan

Topic: Life Sciences Subtopic: Other

Case Study

of an Exhibition

by Laura Davies

Published on February 24, 2008, Modified on March 29, 2019

  • Description and goals

    AquaticaKK is an Aquarium and Science Discovery Centre currently under construction in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysian Borneo and is scheduled to open later this year. The free Exhibition at Yayasan Sabah was held for the week following Chinese New Year. Primarily, we wished to introduce Aquatica and the concepts of Science Discovery Learning to the local population. We also support science and environmental education in local schools, so all the schools within a reasonable distance were invited to attend.

  • Development process and challenges

    The Exhibition was planned to encompass both live marine and reptile exhibits as well as interactive science modules. As the people of Sabah generally have not had much experience with aquariums or science museums, it was vital that we have well-trained demonstrators with good communication skills to help most visitors overcome their shyness. For example, tame pythons were shown in conjunction with experienced snake handlers to allow the visitors to touch and hold them. Most visitors arrived with an immense fear of snakes but left with the knowledge that not every snake is poisonous and it is not neccessary to kill every snake you find.

    Our interactive science modules have been constructed over the past two years at a field workshop using purely local expertise and materials. Therefore most of these modules are not as ‘shiny’ as those which are usually seen in science museums, however all of the visitors were extremely happy playing with them. For example, a simple sliding puzzle showing coral reef zonation was able to capture a visitors attention for an average of ten minutes.

    AquaticaKK is a relatively low budget and low manpower operation and many of the employees have little experience in the field of exhibit design. This was negated by the fact that most of the visitors were local and had never seen anything like it before. The few tourists that did arrive seemed so charmed by the handmade rustic quality of the exhibits that they thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

    To further enhance the experience, each visitor was offered a ‘science passport’. By taking part in the various science activities offered in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, technology, recycling and art, they could receive a stamp in this passport. This proved to be very popular and also gave us a good idea of the visitor numbers when we kept track of the number of passports handed out.

    Throughout the week seven schools sent groups of approximately 60 pupils each. The teachers expressed great interest in Aquatica and its principles and the pupils all had a good time. It seems that the greatest problem for local schools is organizing a bus and this takes more time than the schools had.

  • Lessons learned, mistakes we made (and what we did about them)

    Our level of advertising was very low. One advert in the local paper plus flyers handed out at the weekly market. For future exhibitions we plan to increase our advertising strategy.

    Some of the interactive science modules suffered greatly at the hands of over-enthusiastic children and adults so construction and coating materials need to be re-thought.

  • Exhibition Opened: February 2008

  • Traveling Exhibition: No

  • Location: Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

  • Estimated Cost: Less than $100,000 (US)

  • Size: 1000 to 3,000 sq ft.

  • Website(s):

Latest Comments (5)

Nice Work!

by Paul Orselli - February 26, 2008

Nice Work!

It’s great to read about a project that emphasizes local expertise, well-done (yet inexpensive) interactives, and a strong demonstrator program that fosters human interaction in the museum.

I hope I get to visit in person some day!


by Michele - November 22, 2009

A very nice concise overview of your science center. I’m thrilled to hear you are incorporating local artisans in construction of the science modules. Sometimes low-tech is much more engaging and real to children. I’m a big fan of hands-on activities as I spent many years with my pet snakes teaching the wary about their amazing life history and diversity. Keep up the good work. I’d love to hear how things have changed this year for you.

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