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Abstract Detail

Teaching Section

Clary, Renee [1].

Taken for Granite? A Case Study Analysis of Rock and Substrate Interpretation in Botanical Gardens.

In 1998, the 15 Degree Laboratory defined the concept of “plant blindness,” and researched how humans typically focused on animals within a landscape, often ignoring the multitude of plants within it (Wandersee & Schlusser, 1999). In 2002, botanist Jim Wandersee and geologist Renee Clary founded the EarthScholars Research Group for effective integrated botanical/ biological and geological instruction. One area of EarthScholars’ specialization is the fundamental understanding, integrated design, and improvement of geological and biological (with emphasis on botanical) education programs at public informal science education sites, specifically fossil parks, nature parks, arboreta, and botanic gardens.
EarthScholars (ES) accepted the mission to combat the general public’s plant blindness perception (Wandersee & Clary, 2006a, 2006b ). Several ES research analyses of informal educational sites likewise identified opportunities for botanical content incorporation for improvement of public botanical literacy (Clary & Wandersee, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014). This research investigation considers the alternative position: Do botanical gardens effectively integrate other scientific concepts, particularly geological ones, within their educational spaces? This case study (Yin, 2013) investigates two botanical gardens in North America which offer “rock gardens” among the botanical displays.
Both the Atlanta Botanical Garden and VanDusen Botanical Garden (Vancouver, BC) were visited on multiple occasions and documented photographically. Within each of the “rock gardens” at these sites, the types and arrangements of rocks were recorded, and brochures and signage were examined for any geological concepts presented to visitors. Signage at the rock garden sites was transcribed and subjected to content analysis (Neuendorf, 2002). Two stable themes emerged: 1) the “rock gardens” in botanical spaces address the plant types that inhabit rocky terrains, and 2) geological concept explanations (e.g., rock types, weathering and erosion) are minimalized or absent in botanical rock gardens.
While botanical gardens are effective sites that combat plant blindness and improve public botanical literacy, they are presently underutilized for interdisciplinary, integrated science instruction. This research suggests that minimal signage and interpretation could improve public geoliteracy—as well as botanical literacy—and contribute a more complete and authentic interdisciplinary scientific view of the world.

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1 - Mississippi State University, Geosciences, P.O. Box 5448, Mississippi State, MS, 39762, USA

botanical gardens
rock gardens
plant blindness.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 34
Location: Salon 9/The Shaw Conference Centre
Date: Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
Time: 9:15 AM
Number: 34006
Abstract ID:340
Candidate for Awards:None

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