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Abstract Detail

Education and Outreach

Clary, Renee [1].

Outstanding Botanical Gardens in North America: Does Excellence in Informal Botanical Instruction Accompany the USA Today Readers’ Choice Award Winners? .

USA Today Readers’ Choice Awards note that botanical gardens 1) study, 2) protect, 3) exhibit and 4) teach about plants. Outstanding botanical gardens “boast extensive collections and stunning presentations, making them must-visits in their respective cities.” Botanical experts identified 20 outstanding North American botanical gardens, with the top 10 finalists determined by popular vote. Using case study analysis (Yin, 2013), this research investigated 5 outstanding 2014/2016 public/botanical gardens, and determined whether exhibits correlated with effective informal education. The researched gardens ranged from larger (Callaway Gardens complex, 6500 + acres; Longwood Gardens, 1000+ acres) to the smaller botanical sites (Missouri Botanical Gardens, 79 acres; Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, 55 acres; Lewis Ginter, 50 acres). Each garden was visited, photographically documented, and researched for public opportunities to learn. Signage was transcribed and analyzed against optimum signage system guidelines (Wandersee & Clary, 2006a). Brochures and permanent displays were also transcribed, coded, and analyzed (Neuendorf, 2002).
The botanical gardens differed in their styles and presentations. Classic conservatories at Longwood and Lewis Ginter inspired and attracted visitors, while Callaway Garden’s natural Azalea Bowl was a popular visitor choice. Signage also ranged in quantity and quality among the sites. Longwood, the top 2014/2016 garden, had the least signage, with the emergent dominant theme of du Pont family history. Signage was also sparse at the other large site, Callaway Gardens (3rd, 2014), and was plant-specific within exhibits. Smaller botanical gardens incorporated more opportunities to learn. Analyses revealed that Lewis Ginter (2nd/ 4thplaces) weaved sustainability and Earth Systems themes within 8 garden signs. Cheekwood (6th/9th places) also systematically incorporated signage (19 signs) that focused upon plant diversity and impact. Missouri Botanical (9th/3rd places) had signage-less expanses, but systematically incorporated signage in its Children’s Garden (25 signs) and Home Gardening (6 signs) exhibits: The Children’s Garden focused upon Missouri’s history and plants (including modern threats), and Earth Systems, while its Center for Home Gardening focused upon sustainability.
Although this research documented little correlation between Readers’ Choice gardens and effective informal education, site visits revealed multiple opportunities for gardens to combat Plant Blindness (Wandersee & Clary, 2006b, 2006c) and engage visitors to improve public science literacy. Emergent themes revealed that botanical gardens can address the Earth’s complexity, reliance upon water, evolution and change of plants through time, plants’ interactions within Earth Systems, human dependence on plants, and human impact on the planet.

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1 - Mississippi State University, Geosciences, Box 1705, Mississippi State, MS, 39762, USA

botanical garden
informal education
botanical signage.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: 18, Education and Outreach I
Location: Sundance 4/Omni Hotel
Date: Tuesday, June 27th, 2017
Time: 9:00 AM
Number: 18005
Abstract ID:242
Candidate for Awards:None

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