Access to the People
Volume 1 Number 18 - July 1999
Dr R. K. Roy
The botanic garden of the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), Lucknow is the third largest and one of the oldest botanic gardens in India. The major functions of the garden are - Conservation, Floriculture and Education. The education programmes are used to communicate knowledge, feelings, ideas and information to the public. The garden runs educational courses and training programmes, publishes materials and organises flower shows and open days for a wide range of audiences, including students, teachers, connoisseurs and the general public.
The National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), Lucknow is one of the National Institutes of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), New Delhi, India. The Botanic Garden of NBRI was laid out around 1800 A.D. It is the third largest (25 hectare) and one of the oldest botanic gardens in India. The garden houses a large diversity of plant species, comprising 7,000 taxa representing 210 families, from various tropical and sub-tropical areas. The three major functions of the botanic garden are - conservation, floriculture and education (Sharma et al. 1996).
Botanic Garden Education Programmes – Their Importance
Education may be defined as the process of bringing out desirable changes into the behaviour of human beings by acquiring knowledge through instruction or study in order to achieve a definite goal (Dahama and Bhatnagar 1991). As society develops, it becomes imperative that the cumulative knowledge, experience and skills necessary for various developments should be passed on to the new generations or the people who need them. Educational programmes are a means of communication which enable people to share knowledge, feelings, ideas and information in such a way that each learner perceives a common understanding of the meaning and use of the message communicated (Leagan 1961).
Given that botanic gardens worldwide are visited by millions of people each year, they provide a unique opportunity to influence people towards plant conservation and the environment as a whole. Educational programmes can be effective tools for disseminating information, knowledge and raising awareness. Considering the importance of educational programmes carried-out by botanic gardens, BGCI published a set of guidelines on environmental education (Willison 1994).
The importance of Environmental Education was first emphasised in 1969 at UNESCO - Biosphere Conference (Paris). More recently in 1992 at UNCED, Rio de Janerio, Brazil where Agenda 21 (Chapter 36) states that environment and development education should be made available to people of all ages. Modern economic development and social progress depend on scientific research and its application by passing the knowledge on to the public through education and training (United Nations 1963).
Since early times, learning from nature has always been a part of the human developmental process. Botanic gardens with their array of plant specimens serve as living class rooms. Being able to see and touch real plants can have a greater impact on students' perceptions and can have far reaching consequences, in comparison to other more passive teaching methods. The science that is taught traditionally on the basis of text books does not generate confidence and competence in the learner (Rossman 1996). As such, botanic garden education programmes have immense importance.
The NBRI Botanic Garden Education Programmes
Student and Teacher Education
Students and teachers from the schools, colleges and universities of Lucknow, as well as other cities of India, frequently visit NBRI Botanic Garden. The main purpose of these educational tours is to acquaint visitors with the diversity of plant species from the well identified germplasm collection. Visitors can study the variety of trees and their form, leaf and flower structures and collect information on the family, origin and distribution of particular plant species. NBRI Botanic Garden provides support to class room teaching and an excellent opportunity for the physical study of the theoretical lessons taught.
Since 1997, the botanic garden has run a course on Ornamental Horticulture for the M.Sc. Life Science students of Lucknow University. This course provides a unique opportunity for students to study both the theory and practical aspects of Ornamental Horticulture and has opened a new chapter in our botanic garden education programme. To facilitate the teaching of life science and botany in schools and colleges, plant specimens of representative families are provided for identification and preparation of herbarium specimens.
Limited amounts of plant materials are provided to different institutions, universities and national laboratories for conducting studies and research and development work. Surplus plant materials are sold to plant lovers and connoisseurs.
Short training courses are organised on several aspects of Ornamental Horticulture, Commercial Floriculture and Garden Management. These courses are mainly for horticultural officers, managers/garden supervisors from public and private sectors, national institutes and government departments.
Two flower shows are organised annually in the botanic garden during January and December. They attract about twenty thousand people and 500 exhibitors from different parts of the country. The main purpose of organising flower shows is to show case the botanic garden's research and development activities on floriculture to the public. The shows also help to encourage the people to grow plants, raising their awareness of utility and importance of plants and flowers in daily life besides their importance for conservation.
The botanic garden also participates in the flower shows and science exhibitions organised by other government departments by staffing an education stall. Selected cultivars of ornamental plants, in particular those developed by the botanic garden, are displayed besides plants of economic and rare importance. This is an excellent opportunity to interact with the public as a whole.
Each year, the botanic garden observes the 28th February and 26th September as `Open Days' for celebrating `National Science Day' and to commemorate the `Foundation Day' of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the parent body of NBRI respectively. The purpose of the open days is to promote the research and development work of the Institute to the public. Laboratories, plant houses and conservatories are kept open for local people and students of schools, colleges and universities to view. Scientists explain the important activities they undertake and talk about the utility of plants and their significance for the conservation programme.
Information generated as a result of the research and development work on the different activities of the botanic garden, for example agro-technology of floricultural crops, bonsai techniques, cultivation of house plants etc., has been documented in the form of leaflets, pamphlets, bulletins and books. All these are available to the public on request.
In addition to published materials, the garden organises radio, TV talks and lectures on environmental education, conservation and ornamental horticulture with the aim of disseminating information to as wide an audience as possible.
Interaction with other botanic gardens and institutions
The garden maintains a computerised record of its total living germplasm collection. Information on each plant species is well documented with its botanical name, family, origin, status and salient features. Any institution or organisation in need of information on any of the documented plant species or cultivars for education or any other purpose can contact the botanic garden.
United Nations (1963) Education - The Prime Necessity, in 'Science and Technology for Development', New York, USA.
Walker, S. (1995) Report of the Workshop `Teaching About Plants ...Everywhere' held in Coimbatore, Bangalore, Trivandrum, India.
Dahama, O.P., Bhatnagar, O.P. (1991) Concept and Type of Education in Education and Communication for Development (Second Edition), New Delhi, India.
Leagan, J.P. (1961) India's Experiences With Training in Extension Education For Community Development, Cornell University, New York, USA.
Willison, J. (1994) Environmental Education in Botanic Gardens (Guidelines for developing individual strategies), Botanic Garden Conservation International, Richmond, Surrey, United Kingdom.
Rossman, A.D. (1996) The view from the front of the class: The role of Public Gardens in Teacher Change. Roots 13: 16-18, Botanic Gardens Conservation International, UK.
Sharma, S.C., Sharga, A.N., Goel, A.K. (1996) Botanic Garden - A National Facility, NBRI, Lucknow, India.
Le Jardin Botanique de l’Institut National de Recherches Botaniques (NBRI) de Lucknow est le troisième jardin botanique indien par sa taille et l’un des plus vieux jardins botaniques de l’Inde. Les principales missions du jardin sont Conservation, Floriculture et Education.
Les programmes pédagogiques permettent de communiquer au grand public sensibilité, connaissance, informations et idées. Le jardin organise des programmes et des ateliers pédagogiques, édite des documents et organise des expositions et des journées portes ouvertes pour un large public, : étudiants, professeurs, amateurs éclairés et le grand public.
El jardín botánico de la Escuela Nacional de Investigación Botánica, en la ciudad de Lucknow, es el tercero más grande y uno de los jardines botánicos más antiguos de la India. Las funciones principales que desempeña este jardín son: conservación, floricultura y educación. Se utilizan los programas educativos para transmitir al público el conocimiento, las opiniones, las ideas y la información. El jardín organiza cursos educativos y programas de formación, publica material y organiza exposiciones florales y días de puertas abiertas para una gran variedad de audiencias incluidos estudiantes, profesores, expertos y público en general.
About the Author
Dr R.K. Roy, is a Scientist at the National Botanical Research Institute Botanic Garden, Rana Pratap Marg, Lucknow, India.