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Education E-Update

- November 2007

BGCI education team


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


It is difficult to believe, but another month has already gone by and it's time for another issue of Education E-update. This newsletter endeavours to keep you up-to-date on interesting plant-based education resources and botanic garden education news. For even more ideas and information, check out BGCI's education blog, 'Flower Power'. You'll find further resources collated from educators like you around the globe, along with commentary and updates from BGCI's education staff.

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

Education News from Around the World

Time to make waves for water conservation: The latest edition of BGCI's education journal, Roots, focuses on the important role botanic gardens are playing in water conservation and education efforts. With contributions from botanic gardens around the world including Adelaide Botanic Garden (Australia), Utah Botanical Center (USA), Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest (USA), the National Botanic Garden of Cuba, and the National Botanical Conservatory of Reunion Island, among others, this is an issue you will not want to miss! Find out how to get your copy of Roots.

How is your site addressing climate change? BGCI's education department are seeking articles for the next issue of Roots, 'New horizons: tackling climate change'. We are looking for practical ideas of the kinds of programmes, activities, and resources botanic garden educators are using to communicate about climate change issues and solutions. If you are working on communicating climate change, or your site developments are helping to mitigate climate change, send us an email.

Apply now for the 2008 International Diploma in Botanic Garden Education: BGCI is joining forces with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, to offer the International Diploma in Botanic Garden Education from Sept. 15-Oct. 17, 2008. Scholarships are available. The course aims to equip participants with skills and strategies to communicate effectively with their varied audiences. See the BGCI website for full details. The deadline for applications is 30 June 2008. Applications for the scholarship programme must be in by 31 January 2008.

BGCI announces new U.S. office: BGCI is proud to announce the opening of its new U.S. office at Chicago Botanic Garden. The Garden will help coordinate BGCI's regional conservation programmes in the United States. In the past ten years, Chicago's plant conservation and science department has grown from two to twenty-two staff, with hundreds of graduate students, interns and volunteers. "The opening of our U.S. headquarters at Chicago Botanic Garden marks an exciting milestone in BGCI's development," said Sara Oldfied, BGCI's Secretary General. "Combining our global reach with Chicago's incomparable regional expertise, this is undoubtedly one of our most exciting partnerships yet, creating a major force for plant conservation in this diverse continent."

Get back issues of Roots online: Roots 3:2, 'Environmental Education and Play', is now available to download on the BGCI Roots archive. Have a look for ideas on how to use play in programmes and create a garden that supports child development and connection to nature through creative play.

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

Tools You Can Use

Great Botanic Gardens of the World: Written by BGCI's Secretary General, Sara Oldfield, this is the definitive guide to the vital work and spectacular beauty of the world's botanic gardens. Lavishly illustrated, Great Botanic Gardens of the World explores the rich and varied history of botanic gardens and the fundamental role they play in fields of environmental education, scientific research and plant conservation. An essential addition to any bookshelf! Buy your copy through BGCI's online store.

Hard Rain: This visual and poetic feast uses the music lyrics of singer-songwriter Bob Dylan along with stirring photographs to explore some of the world's major issues of pollution, climate change, poverty and human rights. An outdoor exhibition, which accompanies the book, is touring botanic gardens around the world. Have a look at the 'Hard Rain' website for details. You can also purchase a copy of 'Hard Rain' through BGCI's online store.

New medicinal plants colouring book: Featuring black-and-white drawings of fourteen North American medicinal plants by botanical illustrator D.D. Dowden, the book also includes information about past and current medicinal uses of the plants, fascinating facts and colouring tips. Visit the Flora Delaterre website for more information and a sneak preview.

Growing Food: In this inquiry-based curriculum for primary schools, students learn science through the study of food production systems. Students learn about the cycling of matter in nature, flow of energy and food systems while engaging in hands-on investigations of photosynthesis, food webs, agriculture and more. The manual includes lesson plans, background information, teaching tips, student activity sheets and readings, and tools for assessment. The National Gardening Association website has full details.

Do you have tools or resources to share with other plant-based educators? Send us your tools, and we'll include them in an upcoming issue of Education E-update.


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November 2007

In the Spotlight

This month, we shine the spotlight on Patsy Benveniste, Vice President of Community Education Programmes at Chicago Botanic Garden (USA). You can also read the interview on the BGCI website. If you would like to be "In the Spotlight", send us an email.

How long have you worked in plant-based education? Going on eight years.

How did you become involved in plant-based education? I came to the garden from Lincoln Park Zoo, another museum in the Chicago community. There is lots of cross-talk, collaboration and personnel-borrowing between Chicago's museums, whether traditional or living collection. I tell people I just switched kingdoms.

What would you say your philosophy is on education and learning? I like to borrow a line from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." I think the irreducible role of the educator is to light the fire and stoke the enthusiasm of the learner. That can be achieved using any one (or none) of the currently favoured pedagogical philosophies. I am a sucker for a fabulous lecturer, a verbal spellbinder, but most all of us--and certainly young people--learn best by being fully engaged--hearts, hands, and minds.

What is your most memorable moment as a plant-based educator? I am not a teacher myself, so I can only look on at the wonderful impact that our educators have with our audiences, which include the youngest kids to the oldest nursing home residents. I guess that what sticks in my memory most is the undisguised delight with which our Green Youth Farm students--whether middle or high schoolers--share their knowledge and beginning mastery of the plant world with anyone who will listen to them. They are hungry to be 'seen and heard' on this subject--it is part of their new empowerment as people of knowledge. They are enthusiastic and so have fulfilled Emerson's first requirement for achieving great things. Many Chicago Botanic Garden staff, donors and friends have the same reaction to these students.

What is your favourite teaching technique? Getting kids outside and in the hands of someone who really knows the woods, the water, the prairie or the garden and who can tap into the learner's (ages 2-92) genuine hunger to know.

What teaching resource could you not do without? A really good teacher. Take away the equipment and supplies and even the classroom, but never that teacher who has the magic.

What is the one thing you want your audiences to go away knowing? That they are hungry for more. That they want to come back to the Garden or to wetlands, woods and wild places.

What one piece of advice can you offer to an educator starting up an education programme in a botanic garden? Learn how to connect with people of talent and experience in your community who want to do the same thing you are doing, but don't need the pay. In other words, be a cultivator of volunteers who can help make your ideas take wings and bring some of their own genius to the table for free.

For more information about education programmes at Chicago Botanic Garden, email Patsy Benveniste or visit the Garden's website. You can also read Patsy's article, 'Growing young people from the ground up,' from Roots 3:1 online.


Strut Your Stuff!

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