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International Partnerships

Volume 1 Number 21 - December 2000

Bayu Adjie

This article discusses an exciting joint project between the Adelaide Botanic Garden, Australia and the Cabang Balai Kebun Raya Eka Karya Botanic garden in Bali. Key education staff from both gardens were brought together in Bali for five weeks to produce materials to support the development of a schools program in Bali and to collect first-hand ethnobotanical and ecological information and images for a CDROM on traditional Indonesian plant use. As a result of the project, the botanic garden in Bali appointed an education officer and education team to implement the education program. Increasing numbers of schools are now using the garden for education purposes and the materials produced have been used as a model for other Indonesian botanic gardens. The Adelaide Botanic Garden has also benefited from the project. It now has much more up-to-date information on Asian and Indonesian plant use and its teaching programs have greater integrity and validity.

Botanic garden educators rarely get the chance to work with international colleagues over an extended period of time. Busy schedules and tight budgets make it difficult, however, the mutual benefits of professional collaboration can far outweigh the effort in overcoming the obstacles.  

An opportunity for such collaboration arose recently between the Adelaide and Bali botanic gardens. Bali was keen to produce materials to support the development of a schools program similar to the one in Adelaide. They wanted to develop educational materials to support a village based research project. Adelaide, on the other hand, needed first hand ethnobotanical and ecological information and images for a CDROM on traditional Indonesian plant use.

Taking the Initiative

Frank Zich, an Australian aid volunteer and Bali Director, Ida Bagus Ketut Arinasa initiated the partnership. They were familiar with some of the earlier work done on Indonesian language and culture programs in Adelaide and suggested working together.  Following official approval, key education staff from both gardens were brought together in Bali for five weeks.  Team members included: IBK Arinasa - project supervision – Bali; Bayu Adjie – researcher and translator – Bali; Drs I Wayan Sumantera - ethnobotanical expert, educator – Bali; I Made Sumerta – trainee illustrator – Bali; Steve Meredith – education officer – Adelaide.

A Practical Solution

Work began with a short orientation, goal setting and planning phase in which it was agreed that a range of self-guiding trail booklets would be produced.  The booklets would focus on activity based learning for students and provide user-friendly information for teachers. Illustrations were to be used throughout the student sections to enhance understanding and minimize lengthy explanations. It was agreed the booklets would be used as a practical resource and be relevant to a wide range of audiences. They were to be produced in a simple digital MSWord format because it was easily modifiable to reflect teacher feedback, changes in the garden and school curriculum. 

Interpretive Trails

Following a review of the plant displays, themes were developed to complement the local science, environment and culture curriculum areas.  Trail booklets were completed on six topics for four levels of schooling in Indonesia (kindergarten, elementary, junior and senior high). They were:

  1. Treasure Hunt Garden Introduction (for Kindergarten)
  2. Plant Study (for Elementary School)
  3. Plant Classification (for Junior and Senior High School)
  4. Plants and the Environment (for Elementary, Junior and Senior High School)
  5. Tropical Rainforest (for Elementary, Junior and Senior High School with Indonesian and English versions)
  6. Traditional Balinese Plant Use (for Elementary, Junior and Senior High School with Indonesian and English versions).

English versions were also designed to improve students’ English language skills.

Bali Aga Project

Our work also coincided with a joint ethnobotanical project between the Northern Territory Conservation Commission and the Bogor and Bali Botanic Gardens.  The project aimed to document traditional plant use of the Bali Aga people, descendants of the original Balinese prior to the arrival of Hindu people from Java around the 14th century. The Bali Aga villagers’ use of plants and management of local rainforest is different and more traditional than other Balinese villages.

The education team was able to visit some of the villages as a part of the project including a junior high school in the village of Sepang. Using ethnobotanical information collected by the survey team, activities were developed for Sepang teachers to use in the classroom and school grounds. Some of the activities encouraged village elders to share their traditional knowledge in the school setting.


Seven months since the work has been completed what did the project achieve?  In order to implement and further develop the program the Bali garden has created an education officer position and education team. The education officer is responsible for coordinating, implementing, documenting and developing the education program in the Garden.

Their work has included:

  • Contacting schools throughout Bali to publicise the booklets and encourage visits.
  • Requesting official approval for the booklets to be used in public schools as a part of the curriculum.
  • Organising training conferences, with teachers and school principals, at the Bali Botanic Garden.
  • Developing a questionnaire for students and teachers to review the value of the material.
  • Reviewing and making changes to existing booklets from the results of questionnaires and arranging for a redraft and reprint after a year of using the booklets.
  • Planning special events and schools days at the Garden (eg. Dinosaur day)
  • A successful conference for Senior High School students based on the materials.

The publication of the activity booklets has opened many new options for environmental education at the Bali Botanic Gardens. A number of schools have been visited to explain the program with the result that more schools are now using the garden for education purposes.  The booklets have been used as a model for other Indonesian Botanic Gardens to develop their own programs and for display at many promotional events. The material has also been included in the conservation-training curriculum program for school teachers of junior and senior high school students.

Benefits for the Adelaide garden include much more up-to-date information for a number of Asian and Indonesian plant use projects. As a part of an ongoing association between the gardens, Bali staff are referencing Indonesian studies material prior to publication. The first hand ethnobotanical and ecological information collected on the visit has also provided face to face teaching programs with greater integrity and validity in daily lessons in the garden.

Keys To Success

There were a number of reasons for the success of the project. Firstly, the staff selected possessed a diverse range of complementary skills. Secondly, a reasonable, uninterrupted length of time was allowed for the work to be completed. No phones, no meetings, no diversionary tasks meant a continuity that allowed close knit, productive working relationships to develop.  Working together over an extended time frame also had many benefits beyond the work itself.  It created an informal framework for vigorous discussion that involved sharing, questioning and refining ideas.

Finally, as one might guess, the language barrier did present a few headaches at times. However, more often than not it was also cause for much humour and laughter as we tried to make ourselves understood in each other’s native language. Luckily the plant names were all in Latin.

About the Author

Bayu Adjie is a researcher and translator at Kebun Raya Eka Karya Bali, PO BOX 3424 Denpasar BALI 80034.  Tel/Fax: 62 (0)368 21273 and Steve Meredith is Education Officer for the Adelaide Botanic Garden, North Terrace, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia.  Tel: 61 (0)8228 2311  Fax: 61 (0) 8 8223 1809