Ringing in 2008
2008 is fast approaching, and with it a new year full of opportunities for plant-based education at your botanic garden or education site. What do you plan to do in the New Year to strengthen your education programmes or your professional capacity? You might consider registering for the International Diploma Course in Botanic Garden Education run by BGCI and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. If you prefer to stay closer to home, you could develop a new education programme that you just haven't had the time for before now. No matter how you choose to ring in the New Year, all of us at BGCI wish you a bright and joyous 2008!
The BGCI Education Team
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Education News from Around the World
Sarah Kneebone signing off: Things just won't be the same at BGCI come January. BGCI's education officer, Sarah Kneebone, is leaving the organisation after four years to take up a new post as the Education and Interpretation Expert at the Oman Botanic Garden, currently under development. The garden is in the design stage at the moment, with a team including representatives from RBG Edinburgh (UK) and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden (USA). Sarah will be starting in Oman in February. "It's a huge challenge, and a great opportunity. The garden will be focusing on the native species of the region, and it will be exciting combining the flora with the rich cultural uses of the Omani flora," Sarah said. "I am looking forward to applying everything I have learned from BGCI and the members over the past few years, and will certainly be keeping in touch with everyone". All of us at BGCI wish Sarah the very best and thank her for her amazing dedication and hard work over the past four years.
BGCI appoints new US Executive Director: Endangered plant specialist Andrea Tietmeyer Kramer has been named Executive Director of BGCI's US office. Andrea brings an extensive knowledge of plant conservation, gathered from her work at the Chicago Botanic Garden and with the Center for Plant Conservation. Having recently completed her PhD in the ecology and evolution of the flora of the American Great Basin, Andrea will be responsible for establishing the new US office at Chicago Botanic Garden and implementing elements of BGCI's Five Year Plan 2007-2012, working with US botanic gardens and partner organisations. From her official start date of 7th January 2008, key amongst Andrea's activities will be developing education projects, helping to coordinate the North American Botanic Garden Strategy for Plant Conservation, and leading US fundraising efforts for BGCI's international programmes.
New children's garden opens in Singapore: The Jacob Ballas Children's Garden at the Singapore Botanic Gardens is a specialised fun and fantasy garden dedicated to children. It is designed to provide unique discovery and learning experiences in a garden setting. Through play and exploration, children learn about the importance of plants and conservation. Additionally, optional structured programmes will be offered in the future. For more information on the new children's garden, visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens website.
UK garden educators meet: The National Botanic Garden of Wales provided a stunning setting for the annual conference of the UK's Botanic Gardens Education Network (BGEN). This year's conference, which took place from 7-9 November, focused on the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, bringing educators up-to-speed on what is happening in the UK with each of the targets and examining how BGEN could support their implementation. The conference was attended by 63 delegates, representing 24 organisations throughout the UK, and consisted of six excellent plenary presentations and nine interactive workshops. You can read a report of the BGEN conference on the BGCI website.
New plant trail at Dunedin Botanic Garden: Interpretive signs forming a new thematic trail have recently appeared in the Dunedin Botanic Garden (New Zealand) native plant collection. The trail was developed to celebrate the achievements of the Swedish botanist Daniel Solander, who in 1768 was a naturalist on one of the first journeys to New Zealand by Europeans with Captain James Cook on the Endeavour. His main job on this occasion was to describe and catalogue the plants found during these travels. He also collected and described various animals. Read more about the plant trail at Dunedin Botanic Garden on the BGCI website.
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
Making sense of global environmental change: Do you want to stay up-to-date on the latest science and policy related to conservation and global environmental change, but just don't have the time to make sense of it all? GreenFacts, a Belgian NGO, has put together dozens of information 'digests' on topics ranging from climate change to biodiversity. Many of their reports (in five different languages) are produced in conjunction with international bodies such as the Convention on Biological Diversity. Check out the GreenFacts website for a full list of available digests and other information.
Plant cells, up close: The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (USA) offers high-resolution images of plant cells for use in teaching. You can get up close and personal with a pollen grain, a chloroplast, cytoplasm and more! View all of the images on the Center's website.
Loon Translation: BGCI is pleased to introduce you to Loon Translations for translations related to environmental issues, cultural diversity, journalism and international organisations. Target languages are English and French. Source languages are French, English and Spanish. Proofreading, audio transcription and website localisation are also available. Visit Loon Translation's website for further information, or email Anne Lindsey.
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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In the Spotlight
This month, we shine the spotlight on Steve Meredith, education officer at Adelaide Botanic Garden (Australia). 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? 19 years.
How did you become involved in plant-based education? The first school I was appointed to teach in consisted of weatherboard classrooms surrounded by a sea of bitumen. It looked a little like a soulless prison camp. I set up an extracurricular programme for students to 'green' the bitumen. For me, the project unleashed the power of working with plants and the value of 'real' projects for developing environmental learning and values.
What would you say your philosophy is on education and learning? The relationship between teacher and learner is paramount. Preconditions for developing effective relationships and learning involve valuing what learners bring, being inclusive of differing learners' needs, and attending to the different learning styles learners bring to the group. Purposeful, relevant and negotiated content drives motivation.
What is your most memorable moment as a plant-based educator? By chance I met some students who had participated in one of our plant discovery trails over four years ago. They passionately and excitedly recounted in great detail what they remembered and the meaning it had for them. Because so much of the longer-term impact of education is hard to measure, I found this moment to be especially inspiring.
What is your favourite teaching technique? From a theoretical point of view, talking with rather than at people, setting up two-way conversations to find out what they already know and encouraging them through purposeful activities to discover and build their own meanings. From a plant perspective, I enjoy using the curiosities of the plant world, like touch plants and water repellant leaves of the lotus, to arouse ideas about how such features work and how they might help the plant.
What teaching resource could you not do without? We have a large, 130-year-old strangler fig, the only one I know of growing in our city and for that matter our state. Its uniqueness to our area and striking aerial roots immediately arouse curiosity and questions. Couple this with its fascinating survival stories and you have an engaging introduction to the diversity of life in rainforests.
What is the one thing you want your audiences to go away knowing? Without explicitly saying it, I would want them to know the power of taking time to really tune all your senses into the natural world, to be curious about what you are noticing and to understand the profound effect our actions can have on it.
What one piece of advice can you offer to an educator starting up an education programme in a botanic garden? Think about the way you teach as much as what you teach.
What is your favourite plant? Brachychiton ruspestre or Bottle Tree. It gets my vote because of the remarkable reactions it evokes in people. Sit nearby the one in our forest garden and you'll often hear squeals of delight that herald its discovery, followed by some serious tree hugging and then a rush of creative guessing to explain its bizarre shape. A crowd-winning plant.
For more information about education programmes at Adelaide Botanic Garden, email Steve Meredith or visit the Garden's website.
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