Wednesday 9 May 2007

Dynamic Earth, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh

Resembling a vast white tent, punctured by large steel pins, the modernistic Dynamic Earth building at the foot of the Royal Mile offers an imaginative tour through the history of life on earth. Ideal for kids aged 7-13, the tour begins on a spaceship, which cruises among the stars before crashing on Earth in the planet's formative years. The metal floor shakes as wall-to-wall screens display volcanoes erupting and lava pouring across a rocky landscape. Subsequent rooms contain a block of ice as big as a car, a dramatic life-size model of a pouncing sabre-tooth tiger and a mechanical, but convincing rainforest complete with animated orangutan and komodo dragon. In an IMAX-style cinema, you are invited to sit on the floor and take a headspinning flight over mountain glaciers. For students who want to delve deeper into natural history, interactive displays and detailed wallcharts are dotted throughout the exhibition.

The 90 minute tour finishes in another IMAX-style cinema where visitors sit in revolving chairs and watch dramatic news bulletins from the future displayed overhead. This final room, which places great emphasis on the dilemmas posed by global warming and overpopulation, includes an interactive voting system enabling visitors to decide whether Scots should use clean sources of energy or build more nuclear power stations, for example. While the tour itself is quite pricey at £9 for an adult, Dynamic Earth has a good-value and child-friendly cafe offering panoramic views of Hollyrood Park through the large glass walls. 7/10