Formal Education Programmes
The importance of education in botanic gardens as a means of conserving biodiversity has already been mentioned. This section gives ideas and case studies of programmes and schemes run by botanic gardens to engage and involve young people in a formal (i.e. school) context.
Part of the importance of botanic gardens connecting with school pupils is the lead role they can play in promoting education for sustainability (EfS). A definition of EfS is problematic, but essentially it promotes the activities and background to sustainable development, and links the importance and meaning of sustainable development to everyday living.
Botanic gardens have the potential to become models of sustainability themselves, and through their work and their education programmes, promoting the means by which everyone can become involve in creating a more sustainable way of life. BGCI has developed a set of guidelines on EfS for botanic gardens – click here for more.
The early formative years are an important time for children to come into contact with nature and start exploring their outdoor environment.
Primary school is a favoured age group to focus on for education in botanic gardens. Primary-age children are at a developmental stage where they are empathetic, recognise different perspectives on issues and show positive attitudes towards wildlife and conservation (Kidd & Kidd 1996). This is also the time of life at which attitudes towards the environment are being formed and the pupils retain an openness to experiences of ‘awe and wonder’, as provided by botanic garden visits. The below articles give a taste of some of the imaginative and varied programme that have been developed throughout the world.
Secondary schools are becoming the focus of more in the way of botanic garden education programmes. Pupils benefit from an in-depth explanation and investigation of particular issues and stories, whilst teachers benefit from exploring a subject in a new and different way. Using botanic gardens with secondary school pupils allows them to place their learning, whether it be in science, geography or citizenship, into a relevant context and can open their eyes to the messages about sustainability and conservation that botanic gardens promote. Methods used to engage these, perhaps more challenging, audiences are varied and imaginative. The articles below give some examples of case studies and possibilities.
As well as the usual teaching programmes for children and teenagers, Botanic gardens can provide focussed and specific vocational training courses and detailed instruction for degree-level learning through co-ordination and co-operation between research, horticultural and education teams within the site.
Three years ago an organisation called Learning through Landscapes (LTL) was launched in the United Kingdom. Its aim is to improve the quality of school grounds and to promote a wide range of educational activities in school landscapes. In the short time since its inception, LTL has gained a substantial following in Britain and attracted interest from all over the world.