PlaSciGardens: Plant Science Education for Primary Schools in European Botanic Gardens
PlaSciGardens developed teaching resources in plant science and established a strong network of educators and researchers in botany.
The objective of the project was to help primary school pupils and their teachers to use the inquiry-based approach to teaching plant science. It also promoted collaboration between schools and their local botanic garden and encouraged teachers to use trips to botanic gardens in their teaching.
The main result of the project is the website "Scientists Investigate… at school and at the botanic garden", launched in 2007, which presents the learning materials developed.
The materials have been developed in each participating country in close collaboration with teachers, principals, education authorities and botanic garden educators. They promote plant diversity, the economic and cultural importance of plants and the need for their conservation.
To ensure proper implementation of the materials in schools, the project organised teacher-training seminars and also seminars for botanic garden educators.
The project also established Europe-wide partnerships between botanic garden educators to share experiences and exchange good practice in promoting plant science and plant science education. The network was institutionalised as the Environmental and Botanic Garden Education Network in 2006.
Country: Austria, Bulgaria, Italy, United Kingdom
Coordinator: University of Innsbruck, Institute of Botany, Austria, http://www.uibk.ac.at/botany/
Target groups: primary school students, teachers, trainee teachers
Topic: Biology, Ecology, Environmental sciences, Food science, Other
Start year: 2005
End year: 2007
Contact person: Suzanne Kapelari, University of Innsbruck, Institute of Botany, Austria, suzanne.kapelari (at) uibk.ac.at
The development of the teaching materials was based on a detailed study on the position of plant science teaching in primary schools and botanic gardens in Europe; the objective being to optimise integration of the materials into primary school curricula.
This project adopted a constructivist approach: each student must build his or her understanding, which is constantly changing. Children follow their own path towards deeper understanding as their skills improve. These skills include critical thinking, systematic investigation, observation, analysis and the ability to articulate their findings using appropriate scientific language.
The testing and validation of the materials centred around obtaining information about how the children and teachers participating in pilot trials experience plants and science while using the resources. Participating primary school children (about 450 in four countries) and their teachers also filled out a questionnaire addressing some aspects of their experience during the trials.
The collection of educational resources named "Plant Scientists investigate… at school and at botanic gardens" – the final result of the project – is intended for 8-12 year old pupils. It has been published in four languages (Bulgarian, English, German, Italian) and is available as a book, on CD-ROM and online at www.plantscafe.net.
The collection contains 44 modules, each including teaching sequences and teaching material ready-to-use in the classroom or at a botanic garden. The modules are divide into four themes:
• Experiments about plant growth
Each module cover a range of different teaching strategies and techniques: experiments, learning games, concept cartoons, argumentation activities, role play, group work, horticultural activities, observation, etc. Pedagogical and didactical background information is added to underline the advantages of inquiry-based science education.