7-11 Year OldsUsing Plants to Light Sparks
Each year the Audrey Moriarty Southern Cape Herbarium in South Africa, organises a Wildflower Show to encourage people to learn about the wonderful variety of plants that occur naturally in the southern Cape. Schools from disadvantaged suburbs, however find it difficult to attend because of the distance and unaffordable cost of transport. For this reason, Educational Environmental Expo was created. Organised by BEEP (Botanical & Environmental Education Project) which is coordinated by the Herbarium, the Expo was set up in a large hall within easy walking distance of a large number of schools. The aim of the Expo was to expose children and teachers to the importance of the richness and complexities of the local biomes and the factors influencing their conservation. Over 2 500 children from 15 schools attended. Every student was given a copy of the BEEP Environmental Game to take home and teachers received a worksheet to encourage follow-up activities in the classroom. It is hoped that this Expo will lead to a annual or biennial event.
A few years ago a special education programme for enhanced school curricula was elaborated in the Moscow University Botanic Garden under the sponsorship of BP (British Petroleum). Part of this programme includes the Apothecaries' Garden Day Festival, which is organized annually in spring at the end of the school year, to broaden the public’s and school awareness of the Garden's educational potential, promote knowledge about the diversity of the plant kingdom and excite children to learn more about plants and nature. The latest of such Festivals was held in May 2000 with more than 500 school children participating. The following article describes one of the environmental games played during the day, called the Robinson’s Island, so called because for most schoolchildren this was their first visit to the garden. As a result, they found themselves in a situation similar to that of Robinson Crusoe (the hero of the Daniel Defoe’s book) on an uninhabited island surrounded by unknown plants.
New generations are technologically advanced; they watch television, they play with computers, and they navigate on the Internet. But in the multimedia age, society is loosing its culture day by day; popular traditions and nature’s culture are no longer a part of modern life. If you ask a child ‘What is a tomato?’ they will probably reply that a tomato is a red sauce that is generally put on fries when having a meal in a fast-food restaurant.
During the past two years, the Botanic Garden of the Biology Institute of the Autonomous University of Mexico has supported a pilot programme, in collaboration with the Public Secretary of Education, to train a group of primary children in environmental themes and the protection of nature. These children are known as Environmental Ambassadors.
After training the ambassadors then share and teach younger children what they have learnt and implement their own programmes within schools. The article describes some of the activities carried out by the ambassadors including workshops and an exhibition, in which children from pre-school level (4-5 years old) to sixth grade (12 years old) participated. Evaluation of the pilot programme has revealed that children can be key people in awareness raising and the dissemination of information for the conservation of natural resources.
Our first impressions of a botanic garden, the journey we make through it, how this is negotiated, who we make this journey with and how we record it, are key factors in how we relate to the botanic garden and the plants within it. Dawn Sanders is currently researching botanic gardens as a learning environment and part of her research considers whether children connect with plants, and if so what factors contribute to connection.
Her study has involved working with three groups from three different primary schools in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The schools are state schools with mixed social and cultural rolls. After visiting Chelsea Physic Garden, each child in the class worked on post visit(s) recording sheets, which encouraged both written and illustrated responses. The recording sheets incorporated a wide range of questions focusing on aspects of their visit(s) to the garden and the nurturing of plants at home. This article considers responses to the questions: which plants did the children remember from their visit(s)?; what was their favourite plant? and why?
A Prehistoric Botanical Garden has been created near the Lake-dwelling Museum at Molina di Ledro, Italy. Its main purpose is to provide visitors with a general view of the vegetable species that were most important for the daily lives of the ancient lake-dwelling inhabitants.
Along with the construction a Prehistoric Botanical Garden, an archeo-agricultural programme has been developed.
This programme includes an introduction to the lake-dwellers and their history, followed by the reconstruction of several prehistoric tools and the creation of some plots in which the species cultivated by the inhabitants are sown. The final stage is the ‘Prehistoric snack’ that is a whole day dedicated to carrying out several of the most important activities necessary in the daily lives of the ancient lake-dwelling inhabitants. Particular attention is paid to the working of flintstone, pot making, the harvesting of the flax, the processing and cooking of cereals and to the final test of actually eating the small loaves!
Among the important questions botanical garden educators and conservationists grapple with are 'How can we sensitize and motivate children to care about endangered plants and habitats?' and 'How can we develop a conservation ethic in young children?' Endangered plants often finish a distant second behind students' concern for animals, yet few students will ever hold an endangered animal as they can an endangered plant.
The importance of protecting habitats and the concept of plants as foundations of healthy habitats are not always well understood by children. Georgia students are gaining personal experience with endangered plants through their work with the Georgia Endangered Plant Stewardship Network (GEPSN). This program is making important, potentially life-long, connections between people, plants, and their habitats.
Environmental educators agree that respect for the environment, the teaching of values as related to the environment and encouraging a change in environmentally responsible behavior should all be integral parts of any environmental curriculum. Environmental education may become one of the most important areas of teaching as the balance in the natural environment becomes unstable with continued destruction of vital ecosystems.
By interacting with his/her environment and in cooperation with peers, a child is able to reinforce a variety of internal developmental processes that learning triggers.
The western part of the Australian state of New South Wales is sparsely populated, with the bigger towns hundreds of miles apart. Many of the children in this vast area attend very small schools and distances mean that others are taught at home by radio lessons. In 1982 the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney initiated an educational program for western schools. The program was repeated a number of times throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
Using four-wheel drive vehicles laden with plant specimens, education officers and other Gardens personnel travel the outback for up to two weeks at a time to visit isolated schools and their communities. At each school, there is a day of plant-focused activities. Children who normally study by distance learning are invited to attend the nearest school, and some of them travel hundreds of miles to attend.
The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney feel that the "Goes West" program is valuable, even though it is labour-intensive, and it plans to continue the program as an annual event.
Planting arboretums in schools is a gamble, taken by the Yves Rocher Foundation for Education and the Environment, which is succeeding. Already 63 primary schools have planted their first conservation and monitoring areas. This activity aims to initiate good environmental behaviour from school age. This activity has been supported by both the Ministries for Agriculture and Education within their National campaign "A l'‚ecole de la foret".
VanDusen Botanical Garden, the Vancouver Board of Parks and local schools celebrated "Earth Day - 1992" with a unique project. School children planted a mini-garden in a standard planting tray. They were encouraged to produce a "garden" which demonstrated their concern for the planet Earth and were asked to write a story, poem or essay to explain what their garden represented. The result was an amazing display of concern and creativity. The project demonstrated the children's deep concern for our planet and displayed their awareness of the need for conservation of the Earth's precious and dwindling resources.