Botanic Gardens Conservation International
BGCI provides a global voice for all botanic gardens, championing and celebrating their inspiring work. We are the world's largest plant conservation network, open to all. Join us in helping to save the world's threatened plants.

An Interdisciplinary Approach to Planning

Volume 2 Number 2 - October 2005

Jeremy Call, Shawn Olsen, David Anderson and William Varga





In 2002 the Utah Botanical Centre (UBC), a new interpretive centre north of Salt Lake City, initiated an intensive educational programme planning process.  This was led by an interdisciplinary guidance team of 12 educators and administrators from Utah State University Extension, the Utah Botanical Centre, the Utah State Office of Education, and the Davis School District. 

The team's goals were to:

  1. select the type and sequence of new and existing educational programmes
  2. assist in resolving contextual issues such as staffing, funding, and site improvements.

Over a period of 12 months the team conducted two surveys, six group process meetings, 33 interviews with a variety of stakeholders and observed programs at 17 interpretive sites to develop a list of priority programmes.  This input was prioritised by considering the UBC and USU mission, potential funding opportunities and constraints, audience needs, cooperation or competition from similar programmes, and the expertise and limitations of staff.  Components of the plans were implemented by hiring a coordinator for the Utah House and an education coordinator for the Botanical Centre.  Following completion of the Education Master Plan in 2003, the Utah House and Botanical Centre entertained over 7,000 visitors, including 1000 K-12 (kindergarten through to year 12) students in 2004.  In addition to developing additional educational programmes and staff, the plan brought many diverse elements together that will continue to help sequence the construction of facilities and gardens.


An Education Master Plan has been integral to the development of the Utah Botanical Centre, a new botanical centre north of Salt Lake City, USA.  It has enabled us to build consensus around a vision, focus efforts on the most achievable short-term goals, and heighten the visibility and value of a new programme.

Development of the Utah Botanical Centre (UBC) master plan was necessary because of a physical re-location of a horticulture research farm started by Utah State University in 1905.  In 1998 the state highway department purchased the gardens in order to construct a highway interchange. Plans were made to relocate the botanical gardens to a location adjacent to the existing USU research farm in Kaysville City, about three miles north of the Farmington site.  A total of 94 acres of land was obtained for the new botanical gardens which were given the name ‘Utah Botanical Centre’.  The new site included four ponds which covered 23 acres, 40 acres of public open space around the ponds and 31 acres of farmland where the formal botanical centre would be built.  The site was a blank canvas on which to build a new botanical centre.

Initial plans for the botanical centre were developed by a technical advisory committee from different academic departments at USU.  Several surveys, such as a statewide survey of USU extension master gardener volunteers and a Kaysville City survey of 500 households, added to the master plan.  These inputs helped to develop a mission statement focused on sustainable urban landscapes, resource conservation, and water quality.  Two national leaders in sustainable urban landscapes - Daryl Morrison and David Northington - helped to refine the mission and site master plan.  These planning efforts were more focused on the mission and site plan and less focused on the education plan.  With a preliminary site master plan, the UBC began soliciting funding from local, state, and federal agencies, and private donors.  This funding helped to clean up the site and ponds, re-align the frontage road, and build a greenhouse and offices.  With the basic infrastructure (but still no garden) installed, it was time to develop an education plan.

The Process

In 2002, the UBC initiated an intensive educational programme planning process led by a 12 person interdisciplinary guidance team.  In addition to education specialists, the team included university and local school administrators, funding partners, and facility planners who would be instrumental in implementing the plan. The team’s goals were to 1) select the type and sequence of new and existing educational programmes, and 2) assist in resolving contextual issues such as staffing, funding, and site improvements. Over a period of 12 months, the team conducted two surveys, six group process meetings, and 33 interviews with a variety of stakeholders to develop a list of priority programmes.  Some of the greatest learning occurred through personal observations and interviews at 17 botanical gardens in the western United States, many of which had not developed an education master plan. These visits allowed the team to ‘reality-check’ their own ambitions and understand the lessons learned by other developing programmes. Major research findings are summarised below in Figure 1.

Figure 1.  Major team findings during the Education Master Plan process.

  • The importance of a close working relationship with the school district and local teachers.
  • That planning programmes and facilities for school groups will often satisfy the needs of other audiences and facilities.
  • The need for trained educators that can effectively lead school groups.
  • The facility requirements of immediate-term programme priorities, which in some cases have accelerated or modified the configuration, phasing, and implementation of the site master plan

A wide range of needs and messages were grouped into general themes and prioritised by considering the UBC and USU mission, potential funding sources and amounts, projected audience needs, cooperation or competition from similar programmes, and the expertise and limitations of staff.  The team then prioritised immediate-term and long-term programmes by audience: K-12 students, university students, horticulture industry professionals, and the general public.  The final 250 page Education Master Plan was condensed into an executive summary publication and was distributed to university officials, the school district, local and state elected officials and commissions and other stakeholders. This executive summary has been a valuable tool in communicating the results of the educational planning process to decision makers and potential funding sources.  Excerpts of the summary are available at the web site:

Implementing the Plan

Some of the milestones in implementing the master plan have included hiring a coordinator for the Utah House, a sustainable building demonstration and learning centre, and an education coordinator for the botanical centre (also see Figure 2).  These specialists designed a field trip programme at the UBC directed at fulfilling the requirements of the Utah State Office of Education K-12 core curriculum in horticulture, wetlands, wildlife, energy and water conservation, and environmental economics.  In 2002, there were only about 150 students who visited the UBC.  By August 2003, the Utah House had opened and in 2003-2004, the Utah House and UBC had over 7,000 visitors, including 1,000 K-12 students in 2004.   Other programmes were initiated or consolidated from other university facilities to the gardens, such as a series of Saturday morning gardening classes throughout the 2005 growing season.  Offerings of off-campus USU credit horticulture classes were increased, with classes focusing on Sustainable Landscapes, Soil Science, Annual and Perennial Plants, Native Plants, Pest Management and Introduction to Landscape Architecture.

Figure 2. Major benefits of the Education Master Plan during implementation.

  • Catalyzed latent group energy into action towards mission-focused programme goals.
  • Identified ‘low-hanging fruit’ (i.e., funding, programs, partners) that could be more easily attained despite currently limited resources.
  • Created a phased action plan of immediate and long-term programnes, based on available funding, personnel, and facilities.
  • Demonstrated to stakeholders, especially funding sources, that we have a plan and that the plan is working. 

Programmes for horticulture industry professionals were also expanded.  A pilot programme included industry professionals, extension specialists, and UBC staff working together to teach a series of classes on Landscape Design and ‘Winterising’ Your Landscape.  The UBC hosted a water conservation tour for the Utah Water Conservation Forum.  The UBC increased their involvement in planning and conducting the annual Utah Green Industry Conference.  Programmes for the general public were initiated or consolidated from other university facilities to the UBC, such as a bi-weekly series of Saturday morning gardening classes throughout the 2005 growing season.

On Reflection

These popular programmes influenced the site operation by highlighting the need for an all-weather educational facility.  They also highlighted the need for interpretive signage and a comprehensive interpretive plan that would allow for greater numbers of self-guided group tours, so lightening the load of education staff and docents who until this point have presented to most visitors.

Implementation of some components of the education master showed that clients will respond to educational programmes even though the botanical gardens per se are still under development.  The plan brought many diverse elements together and will continue to help sequence the construction of facilities and gardens with the development of additional educational programmes and staff.



En 2002 le Centre Botanique de l’Utah (CBU), nouveau centre d’interprétation au nord de Salt Lake City, dans l’Utah, a initié une démarche de planification de programmes éducatifs intensifs conduite par un groupe d’orientation interdisciplinaire composé de douze éducateurs et administrateurs de l’annexe de l’Université de l’Etat d’Utah, le Centre Botanique de l’Utah, le Bureau d’Education de l’Etat d’Utah, et le District scolaire de Davis. Les objectifs du groupe étaient de 1) sélectionner le genre et le déroulement de programmes éducatifs nouveaux et déjà existants, et 2) assister dans la résolution de sujets contextuels tels que l’amélioration des ressources humaines, financières ainsi que du site. Sur une période de douze mois, le groupe a mené deux enquêtes, six rencontres avec les groupes concernant les démarches, 33 entretiens avec une variété d’acteurs impliqués, et a observé des programmes dans 17 sites d’interprétation afin de développer une liste de programmes prioritaires. Cet apport a été mis en avant en tenant compte de la mission du CBU et de l’UEU, des potentielles opportunités et contraintes de financement, des besoins du public, de la coopération ou compétition provenant de programmes similaires, et de l’expertise et des limites du personnel.

Certaines composantes des plans ont pu être mises en place en employant un coordinateur pour la Maison de l’Utah et un coordinateur pour la section éducation du centre botanique. A la suite de l’achèvement du plan détaillé pour l’éducation 2003, la Maison de l’Utah et le Centre Botanique ont accueilli plus de 7000 visiteurs, dont 1000 étudiants K-12 en 2004. En plus de développer des programmes et du personnel éducatif supplémentaire, le plan a rassemblé de nombreux et divers éléments et assistera dans le déroulement de la construction des aménagements et des jardins.



En 2002, el Centro Botánico de Utah (UBC), un nuevo centro de interpretaciόn al norte de la ciudad Salt Lake, Utah, iniciό un programa intensivo de educaciόn, iniciativa tomada por un equipo interdisciplinario de doce educadores y un administrador de Extension de la Universidad Estatal de Utah (USU), el Centro Botánico de Utah, la oficina de Educaciόn del Estado de Utah y la Escuela distrital Davis. Los objetivos del equipo fueron 1) seleccionar el tipo y secuencia de los programas educativos nuevos y existentes, y 2) asistir en la soluciόn de temas contextuales relacionados con personal, financiamiento y mejoramiento del espacio. Durante un período de 12 meses, el equipo condujo dos estudios, seis reuniones de procesado de grupos, 33 entrevistas con una variedad de poseedores de los recursos, y programas observados en 17 sitios interpretativos para desarrollar una lista de programas prioritarios. Esta iniciativa fué priorizada considerando las misiones del UBC y USU, las oportunidades potenciales de financiamiento y restricciones, necesidades de la audiencia, copeeraciόn o competencia de programa similares, así como también la experiencia y limitaciones del personal.

Componentes del plan fueron implementados por contrataciόn de un coordinador para la casa Utah y un coordinador de educaciόn para el centro botánico. Posterior a la terminaciόn del Plan Maestro de Educaciόn en 2003, la casa Utah y el centro botánico recibieron 7000 visitantes, incluyendo 1000 K-12 estudiantes en 2004. Además, para el desarrollo de programas educativos adicionales y personal, el plan trajo varios elementos diversos juntos que ayudarán la secuencia de construcciόn de servicios y jardines.  

About the Authors

Jeremy Call was the Education Master Plan Coordinator from 2002-2003. He is currently a Landscape Architect/Environmental Planner, EDAW, Inc., 240 East Mountain Ave., Fort Collins, CO, 80524, USA.

Shawn Olsen is the County Extension Director, Utah State University Extension, P.O. Box 618, Farmington, UT, 84025, USA.

David Anderson& William Varga are the Associate Director and Director, respectively, of Utah Botanical Center, 4870 Old Main Hill, Utah State University, Logan, UT, 84322-4870, USA.  Tel: (435) 797 0446. Fax: (435) 7978015. Website: