Given that most of us live in cities, few would experience life in the padi fields or seen how rice is grown. The Rice Is Life exhibition at Science Centre Singapore gives kids and families insight into rice, how it has influenced the economy and culture of Asia.
Rice is a staple that is consumed widely all over the world. More than 3.5 billion people depend on rice for more than 20% of their daily calories. It is easy to see why rice is a necessity and why it is the top food crop grown. However, getting children to understand the importance and see the hard work taken to cultivate rice can be challenging.
Rice Is Life Exhibition, Science Centre Singapore
Rice is Life is a travelling exhibition jointly developed by the National Science and Technology Museum of Kao Hsiung, Taiwan, The National Science Museum of Thailand and Science Centre Singapore.
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The display shows the use of rice in daily life, nutritional value, production and marketing processes, rice culture as well as the future of rice. It is the first collaboration of its kind with members of the Asia Pacific Network of Science and Technology Centres (ASPAC).
The exhibition is located on the second floor of Hall A, right across the Laser and Mirror Mazes. I would recommend spending at least 45 minutes to an hour at this exhibit as there is much to see and learn.
Get Ready to Farm Rice: TouchScreens & Hands-on Opportunities
The topic of rice is a familiar one for children and it is easy to understand its importance. Simply asking your child questions like “what is rice?”, “Where do we get rice?”, “How long do we take to grow rice?” should get them thinking about something which they would otherwise take for granted, and help to pique their interest in the subject.
The Rice Is Life exhibition is split into four zones: Home, Into the Fields, Town Square and The Future Of Rice.
We started with “Into the Fields” which showcases the cultivation of rice and which was also the most interactive section of the exhibition.
I was impressed at how information was presented. While there were static displays, there were also plenty of machines and games that facilitated the children’s learning. First there was a “sowing station” where the children had to throw the “seeds” into segments representing a section of a field.
It was clearly difficult to ensure that seeds landed in every section of the field and illustrated even sowing had a specific technique to it.
We then checked out a ploughing machine, a facilitated experience. Children make use of a light “plough” to loosen the soil for effective sowing. While this seemed pretty easy, the plough in real life is much heavier and, given the size of the land, it would take a long time to plough, harrow and level the ground.
After land preparation, we headed to the “transplanting station” to transplant seedlings to a field. This is a dry activity where the children have to transplant the seedlings in an orderly manner.
To increase the intensity of the challenge, you can time the kids and pit them against each other! You can definitely get a sense of how back-breaking it is for the real rice farmers.
We then proceeded to a touchscreen which features an interactive game to differentiate the kinds of pests and what kind of insects or birds to use to keep away them away from the padi fields. There were also quizzes on questions about the processes of growing rice as well as the types of machines needed for each process.
Did you know that it takes approximately 120 days to grow rice? Each little grain is therefore a result of hard work from the rice farmer, barring any detrimental weather conditions or diseases.
A Closer Look at Different Types of Rice
At the Town Square, we had the opportunity to take a look at different varieties of rice and learnt the structure of rice. We also enjoyed an enriching session helmed by a Science Centre Singapore educator.
First, visitors can walk through a gallery showcasing the tools used by rice farmers as well as machines for milling and harvesting. The differences between traditional farming methods and modern machinery are vast, with the latter emphasising speed and productivity. Such innovations have helped to increase crop yield and therefore helps increase production to meet the demand of growing populations.
We got to look at 15 different kinds of rice using microscopes and could examine the differences in colour, shape and even structure. From brown rice to black glutinous rice, the kids got to see the nutritional value of the various types of rice.
Of course, this would help convince the little ones to choose brown, red or even black rice over white rice given the amounts of potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamins and even protein found in less polished rice.
The children also learnt about different rice usage. Various materials were used to construct the kinds of food and it was a wonderful spread. Aside from learning about different dishes from the region, kids also learnt about rice varieties.
They also learnt to remove the hull from the rice grain with their fingers. Imagine removing whole sacks of hull! The importance of using machines to help with hull removal is then emphasised by the Science Centre Singapore educator.
Rice as a Material
It certainly didn’t strike me that rice can be used to make many non-edible products! At the “Home” section of the Rice is Life exhibition, visitors will get to experience more wonders of rice.
Furniture can be made from rice straw – which is actually a harvesting residue, which if burnt can lead to toxic pollution. Rice is also an ingredient in many skincare products like shower foam, baby powder, lip balm and more. It is also used to make reusable cups and even cutlery!
I really liked how the Rice Is Life exhibition at Science Centre Singapore was curated. The information was presented clearly with many hands-on elements, touchscreens to get the children to respond to various questions and even a video playing from a rice cooker. While rice is something we all know and consume, the amount of information about rice was very rich.
Battling Climate Change and Food Security
With climate change, extreme weather and other difficulties on the horizon, rice cultivation can be severely impacted resulting in food insecurity issues. Rice Is Life touches on topics like sustainable rice platforms, specific strains of rice that are more resilient and green methods in farming rice.
Rice production is deemed as one of the leading contributors of methane which is a greenhouse gas emitted from rotting vegetation in water-soaked padi fields. Thailand has produced the world’s first sustainable rice with higher yields and quality that carries lighter environmental footprint.
Highly Enriching Rice Is Life Exhibition
The next time you tell your child to finish his or her meal, think of how relevant the message is. Better yet, bring the family to the Rice is Life exhibition which would naturally give them more food for thought into the origins of this staple, the highly intensive work that goes into farming and the value of each grain of rice.
Your child will definitely bring home many lessons after visiting the exhibition.
Rice is Life Exhibition
Where: Hall A, Science Centre Singapore
When: 8 February to 15 May 2020
Part of regular admission to Science Centre Singapore.