The Future of Botany Teaching
Armstrong, Joseph .
A Vision for Promoting a Broader Public Understanding of Botany: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”.
Like Walt Kelly (aka Pogo), I contend that botanists ourselves contribute to the science education problem and public’s general disinterest in studying botany. Too many details are the trees that obscure the forest, and in this sense biology textbooks are true leaders. Deciding what people need to know to understand biological concepts requires an intimate understanding of the material and an ability to discriminate between needed and unneeded information. How many metabolic details are needed to confer an understanding of photosynthesis that most people need and want? Deciding when and how to use scientific names and jargon can be very tricky. We engage in ineffective teaching for many reasons: time, ease of presentation and testing, student comfort with memorization, dully thorough and thoroughly dull textbooks, and a failure to make critical decisions about the material covered. The good news is that people love plants, and gardening in its broadest sense is one of the largest leisure pastimes in North America with over 85 million participating households. Botanical gardens and arboreta have an annual visitation rate of over 250 million people a year, second only to museums. But how often do we leverage these public interests into effective botanical education? More can be done to prepare students for careers in public outreach by building interactive collaborations between institutions of higher learning and organizations engaged in public science education. At Illinois State University many separate components are being synergistically combined to develop an “Illinois State Botanical Garden” where public outreach will have a positive feedback on and strengthen botany and horticulture by generating a need and demonstrating an interest in plant biology, a botanical field of dreams.
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1 - Illinois State University, Biological Sciences, Campus Box 4120, Normal, IL, 61790, United States
Presentation Type: Symposium or Colloquium Presentation
Date: Monday, July 28th, 2008
Time: 2:20 PM