Who We Are
The Botanic Gardens Education Network (BGEN) promotes and advances the delivery of education in member organisations. We are a specialist support and training network for professionals working in education related to plants and the natural world. The network has more than 200 members, most of whom are educators in botanic gardens and other centres of environmental education in the UK and Ireland. Anyone is welcome to join BGEN, though as a support network, those likely to gain the most benefit are professional biodiversity educators within the UK. You can learn more about our members and our work in the sections highlighted below.
Julia is Director of Education for Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) and a member of the BGEN committee.
How long have you been working with plants and the natural world?
Since the late 1980s, which makes it more than 20 years!
Why is helping to connect people and plants important to you?
The truth that plants underpin all our terrestrial ecosystems has made me aware of the deep responsibility we have towards stewarding the earth carefully - for us now and for future generations. Plants can live without us but we can’t live without plants! We are experiencing the sixth extinction and there’s no getting away from it, we are the cause. Connecting people and plants is critical to our future survival.
Tell us about a project you're really proud to have been involved in.
I lead the Growing the social role of botanic gardens project, which is about encouraging gardens to examine their social role and embed a more socially inclusive philosophy in their working practices. Our aim is for gardens to engage with wider social audiences and contribute towards positive social change and environmental awareness about climate change. This is new work in the sector and something I’m proud to be involved in.
Like Gail Bromley from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, I'm also proud of establishing the International Diploma in Botanic Garden Education. This unique course has been running since 1992 and we have had the privilege to train staff in more than 50 botanic gardens worldwide. We are also fortunate to count on the support of several BGEN members who run training sessions on the course. It’s amazing to think that this course is helping gardens to more effectively engage with hundreds of thousands of children and adults in plant conservation.
Finally, what is your favourite plant?
This is a very difficult question as I love so many plants. However, the genus Prunus is one of my favourites – cherry, peach, plums, apricots – not only do they have delicious fruit, they also produce the most wonderful blossom.
BGEN has partnered with a number of UK and global initatives to promote excellence in environmental and plant-based education. We believe that education organisations and initiatives are stronger when we partner together and build on one another's strengths. Central to this work is supporting and promoting our members' interests in the policy arena.
Some useful Botanical Garden education organisations include:
Growing Schools aims to give all children the opportunity to connect with the living environment, whether it is an inner-city window box or a vast country estate, a school veg plot or a natural woodland. Interacting with living plants and animals provides a very rich, hands-on learning experience in which both formal and informal education can flourish.Growing Schools focuses on three areas that are accessible to all, at some level, as a context for learning:
- Food and farming, including the managed countryside
- Gardens, gardening and green spaces
- Wildlife and the natural environment
For more information, visit www.growingschools.org.uk.
or read the growing schools 2008/09 annual report, growing_.pdf
BGEN is a signatory to the Learning Outside the Classroom (LOTC) Manifesto.
LOTC believes that every young person should experience the world beyond the classroom as an essential part of learning and personal development, whatever their age, ability or circumstances.
The organisation's aim is not only to make clear that learning outside the classroom has significant learning benefits for participants but also to explore how it can be successfully delivered so that more young people develop their knowledge, understanding and skills beyond the classroom walls.
For more information, visit www.lotc.org.uk.
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