Archive for April 25th, 2013

April 25, 2013

Be a Botanist: Conservatory Visitors Practice Scientific Thinking

by Melissa Harding

2013-04-18 22.03.34One of the best ways to learn science is through active involvement. This kind of learning, through observation and sensory experience, is something that we strive for with all of our science education offerings. Through our field trip and seasonal camp programs, we try to engage our students in a way of learning science that is immersive and fun yet still teaches the principles of scientific thought. Another way that we promote this is through our Botany in Action (BIA) program. BIA is a fellowship program at Phipps that fosters the development of the next generation of plant-based scientists who are committed to both excellent research and educational outreach. Open to PhD students enrolled at US graduate institutions, the BIA program provides funding for use towards scientific research in the US or abroad and a trip to Phipps, to engage in science outreach training and opportunities to share his or her research to public audiences.

The BIA program is a great way to not only help fund important research, but increase public exposure to real scientists. One new way that we are trying to engage the public with the Fellows is through the Be a Botanist program, which offers a series of self-guided science activities for Conservatory visitors based on our BIA Fellows’ work in the field. These fun activities allow participants to use a diversity of methods to collect data and answer questions. Located in the research station of the Tropical Forest, the Be a Botanist program provides participants with a booklet full of research-related questions and different means of finding the answers, from a binder of mock interviews to petri dishes of soil. This program is meant to give participants a sense of the various ways that science happens as well as to encourage the use of the scientific method to find solutions. When completed, the booklets can be turned in to the gift shop for a prize – a magnifying glass to further encourage observation skills.

2013-04-18 22.04.09Highlighting work done by soil scientist George Meindl, invasive plant expert Samantha Davis, ethnobotanists Sushma Shrestha and Aurelie Jacquet, and green roof botanist Kelly Ksizek, the Be a Botanist program also allows visitors to get a better sense of the kinds of research being funded through the BIA program and why this research matters. Hopefully, some of our young visitors will be inspired by their work and choose a scientific path for themselves!

To learn more about the Botany in Action program, check out the BIA website.

You can also stay up to date on our Fellows at the Botany in Action section of this blog and the Follow the Fellows section of the BIA website.

The above photos were taken by Melissa Harding.

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