Plant Scientists Investigate
A collaborative project to deliver primary science about plants

‘Plant Science Gardens’ was a project started in October 2005 and completed with the launch of the ‘Plant Scientists Investigate…at school and at the botanic garden ’ website and the publication of both printed and CR-Rom resource materials in December 2007.

Five partners across Europe, funded by the 6th Framework Project of the EU, joined forces to develop and produce the project resource and to build a strong network of educators and scientists for future projects. The project partners were led by the University of Innsbruck, Institute of Botany in Austria and included; the University Botanic Garden, Sofia in Bulgaria; the Museum of Natural Sciences, Trento in Italy; and the University of London, Institute of Education and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, both in the UK. The project was initiated to encourage and help primary age schoolchildren across Europe, in particular those in the project partner countries, to use an enquiry based approach to science. It also seeks to enhance young people’s interest in science, science education and scientific careers as well as support European Union policy aimed at promoting sustainable development.

The resource activities are focussed on plants – their growth, their importance economically and culturally and the need for their conservation. Currently science teachers around the globe tend to emphasise animal biology – feeling less than confident teaching about plants and their habitats. However, in today’s world of climate change and loss of our natural resources, it is vital that plant science and the need for conservation are both understood and engaged in. This lack of knowledge and confidence in teaching the subject was highlighted by teachers themselves during the initial stages of the project, when teachers across Europe were consulted about their understanding of plant science and what resource they would like to help them teach it better.

Teachers expressed a keen desire for a product that they could pick up and use instantly, specifying; resources that they could utilise in school and outdoors; enough background information to support them in their teaching; and materials that were interesting and stimulating for the students. The topics they were most interested in were food, conservation, plants in everyday life and culture and plant ecology and growth. To ensure that the project developed materials would work well in the classroom, the materials were tried and tested by teachers ‘at the chalk face’ in each country and the project was supported by local , regional and national curriculum advisors. The partnership with the Institute of Education in the UK particularly facilitated materials that encouraged a ‘hands-on, brains-on’ approach to the pedagogy, integrating methodology that would help the development of critical thinking skills e.g. argumentation and discussion, and materials to encourage children to really ‘work like scientists’.

Plants offer an exciting resource for teaching and are accessible, safe and easy to explore. Across Europe, botanic gardens hold amazing collections of plants, as well as having expertise and knowledge about the world of plants, their uses and their habitats. These locations offer a wealth of resources for the teaching of science and need to be more widely used. The botanic garden partners provided the project with innovative and engaging activities, along with supporting background information to help teachers in their delivery of the primary science curriculum. These resources are aimed at enhancing the interaction between schools and their local botanic garden or nearby natural resource area, and encouraging teachers and their classes to work closely with their local centre.

The materials in this website are the culmination of this EU project. They provide over 40 activity modules and have been set out in an easily useable way, listing the time and equipment needed, giving a step by step teaching sequence, providing images and further background information and guidelines on any further available resources. To read about how the project developed, how teacher training seminars can be facilitated and about the background research that was done as the project progressed, you can find out more by exploring the resources under ‘Info’ in each of the language options. For any further assistance in the country, or to enter into a dialogue with any of the participating project partners to evaluate the resource, the contact details for each partner are given below.

We hope you enjoy using the resource.

Dr Suzanne Kapelari , project leader.

Contact Details:

University of Innsbruck, Institute of Botany, Austria
Dr S.Kapelari on suzanne.kapelari@uibk.ac.at

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
Gail Bromley / Catherine Welsby on g.bromley@kew.org or c.welsby@kew.org

Museum of Natural Science, Trento, Italy
Dr. C. Bonomi on bonomi@mtsn.tn.it

University of Sofia, Botanic Garden, Bulgaria
Vera Grancharova on vera_grancharova@yahoo.com