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Plant Science Gardens: Plant Science education for primary schools in European Botanic Gardens

Final Report Summary - PLASCIGARDENS (Plant Science Gardens: Plant Science education for primary schools in European Botanic Gardens)

The aim of PLASCIGARDENS project was to encourage and help primary age schoolchildren across Europe to use an enquiry based approach to science, to enhance young people's interest in science, science education and scientific careers and to support the European Union policy towards sustainable development promotion. The enquiry based teaching and learning activities were focussed on plants, which was quite innovative given that science teachers tend to emphasise to animal biology, as they are feeling less confident to teach about plants and their habitats. Nevertheless, plants were selected as they offer an extensive teaching prospect and are accessible, safe and easy to explore. In addition, botanic gardens that participated in the project have significant plant collections, as well as the expertise and knowledge about plants uses and habitats; hence their contribution was of major importance since they provided crucial support and offered an extensive botanic gardens educators network.

The PLASCIGARDENS project was designed to:
1. establish new ways of teaching plant science at primary schools through providing a multilingual, multicultural plant science education tool (PSG) to be implemented in primary schools in Europe.
2. strengthen young people's interest in plant science issues by providing enquiry centred learning activities to be practiced in schools and botanic gardens.
3. draw attention to the value of partnerships between schools, botanic gardens and education authorities in providing a pool of resources for improving plant science education in primary school and set an example for similar projects to come.
4. provide in-depth information about the current position of plant science education in Europe.
5. establish international partnerships between botanic garden educators at a European level that will act towards plant science education improvement.

The PSG was available in four languages, both in printed and electronic versions and a website related to the project was developed, which offered access to downloadable versions of the PSG. Teaching material was organised in chapters referring to various aspects of plants significance, and included a range of inquiry based learning modules. Teachers desire for an easy-to-use tool, as well as their lack of confidence regarding plants teaching were taken into consideration for the PSG development.

All material was tested before being presented into schools and the project overall performance was evaluated via the use of questionnaires addressed to both teachers and pupils. In addition, teacher training seminars were organised prior to the teaching process initiation and relevant material was distributed. The project evaluation report was accessible to the public and available on the website.

National working groups were established in the participating countries, so as to monitor the project application and provide information on its outcome. Moreover, during the project implementation, the need of establishing a continental European network dedicated to botanical education became apparent. The idea was presented to the scientific community, received enthusiastic feedback and led to the foundation of EBGEN network which is promising in terms of expanding the experience gained during PLASCIGARDENS project.

It is important to highlight, among other PLASCIGARDENS achievements, the recognition of its innovative teaching approach both through the apparent interest of pedagogical institutions and through the award of the Austrian IMST prize for the year 2007. In addition, PLASCIGARDENS exceeded by far the initial targets for knowledge dissemination, with numerous participations in conferences, and was noted as being exemplar for awareness raising and for its educational potential by European authorities.

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