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Education E-Update

- August 2007

BGCI Education team


Education E-Update: The latest in plant conservation  education news from BGCI (U.S.)


Growing public awareness of climate change presents an interesting opportunity that botanic gardens and other plant-based institutions can capitalise on by providing education and information on this pressing issue. How are plant-based educators meeting this challenge? How are you using plants to educate about climate change? Do you have an interesting climate change resource to share? Submit your ideas and experiences online, and in the next issue of Education E-update we'll feature your climate change education resources from around the world.

Best wishes,
The BGCI Education Team (for general education enquiries to BGCI) (for Education E-update enquiries)

Education News from Around the World

Best practices for botanic garden education in Germany: A new two-year project, "Education for Nature and Sustainability--Innovative Approaches in Botanical Gardens, Zoos and Open Air Museums," has been launched by the Botanic Gardens of the University of Bonn (Germany). The project, recently recognized by the German government as an Official Project of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, aims to evaluate best practice for nature and sustainable development education at non-formal education sites, and to support communication between institutions. For more information, visit the project website (in German) or email Dr. Cornelia Lohne.

Learning in a changing world: BGCI's education officer, Sarah Kneebone, recently attended the 4th World Environmental Education Congress in Durban, South Africa. The Congress, attended by more than 900 delegates from around the world, explored many different aspects of environmental education, including new learning theory, ethics, sustainable schools, cultural change and the WEHAB (Water, Energy, Health, Agriculture, Biodiversity) agenda. Sarah presented on the vital role of botanic gardens in environmental education, examining the contribution gardens can and do make to the global EE movement. Participants at a second BGCI workshop discussed the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (GSPC) and how education for plant conservation can be promoted and further developed within the environmental education field. Read more about Sarah's experience at the Congress on the BGCI website. The Congress programme, papers and photographs can be downloaded from the WEEC website. The 5th World Environmental Education Congress will be held in Montreal, Canada, in 2009.

Fourth International Conference on Environmental Education: Hosted by the Centre for Environment Education in Ahmedabad, India, the Conference will take place Nov. 24-28 and will bring together educators, private sector representatives, academics, media and government officials from around the world. Working session themes have been developed based on the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. Abstracts are still being accepted. Visit the conference website for details.

Forging Filipino partnerships: Siit Arboretum Botanical Gardens, Makiling Botanic Gardens and BGCI worked together earlier this month to deliver a two-day guide training course and to create a teacher training funding proposal in the Philippines. "We hope this proposal will be successful," BGCI Education Officer Sarah Kneebone said. "It is a very exciting idea. The training was great fun. The participants were very enthusiastic and the sites are incredibly beautiful." Read more about these exciting new projects.

Send us news from your botanic garden or plant-based education site, and we'll include it in an upcoming issue of Education E-update.

Tools You Can Use

Encyclopedia of Earth: Encyclopedia of Earth is a new electronic reference about the Earth, its natural environments, and their interaction with society. The Encyclopedia is a free, fully searchable collection of articles written by scholars, professionals, educators, and experts who collaborate and review each other's work. The articles are written in non-technical language and are aimed at students, educators, scholars, professionals, as well as the general public.

Get children outside! Children around the world are spending more and more time indoors, glued to electronic media such as televisions and video games. The National Wildlife Federation (USA) has created the Greenhour to provide parents and caregivers with fun and educational outdoor activities for children.

Human Flower Project: We all know that people love flowers. The Human Flower Project promotes art, discussion and news about human interactions with flowers.

Send us your tools that plant-based educators can use, and we'll include them in an upcoming issue of Education E-update.

Talk Back

What are you doing to educate about climate change? Tell us how you use plants to teach about climate change, and we'll share your ideas with readers around the world in an upcoming issue. Submit your ideas and experiences online.


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August 2007

In the Spotlight

This month, we shine the spotlight on Dr. Suzanne Kapelari, Head of Education, University Botanic Gardens, Institute of Botany, University of Innsbruck, Austria. The interview is excerpted below. You can also read the full interview.

How did you become involved in plant-based education? The primary school teacher of my daughter came up to me and asked me to do a guided tour through the Botanic Garden because it is in the school neighbourhood. She expected me, being a biologist, to know a lot about plants. I thought, "Such a boring thing for kids at that age (6-7 years) walking through a park listening to somebody talking about plants." So I prepared an activity program with learning games, a treasure hunt and an imaginary trip into very high mountains addressing various plant conservation-related topics--and it worked. I got such good feedback from participating children and the teacher, as well as accompanying parents, that I introduced public education at the University Botanic Gardens in Innsbruck. (At that time, only some guided tours were offered to public visitors each year.) I went to Kew Gardens and met Gail Bromley. She was very supportive and gave me very useful advice on how to set up a botanic garden education program from scratch. Today, we have an average of 3000-4000 children from 3-18 years attending activity programs at our garden each year.

What is your most memorable moment as a plant-based educator? Some years ago, a teacher booked a guided tour for her students, ages 16-17 years. She asked us not to do an intense and time-consuming program because her students get bored rather easily. She told us that it is so difficult to motivate students in that particular age group to learn much about plants anyway. The reason why she was able to convince them to come to the Gardens was the promise that after the visit, they would have some free time to go shopping in the town before heading home on the 6 o'clock train. We did a one-hour program (usually we do two hours), but as soon as we wanted to stop, the pupils begged us to continue because the learning was so exciting and they wanted to learn more about plants. They stayed for another hour, and I think the only one who wanted to go shopping was the teacher!

What one piece of advice can you offer to an educator starting up an education programme in a botanic garden? Whatever you want to tell the audience, do not talk more than seven minutes without engaging people in active learning. Make it exciting and perfectly simple, but be sure it is correct.

For more information about the University Botanic Gardenís programs, email Suzanne Kapelari or visit the Garden's website.


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