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BEYOND PLANT BLINDNESS: SEEING THE IMPORTANCE OF PLANTS FOR A SUSTAINABLE WORLD

Conference contribution
Authors Dawn Sanders
Bente Eriksen
Published in Eighth European Botanic Garden Congress Lisbon May 7-11 2018
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of Pedagogical, Curricular and Professional Studies
Language en
Keywords Plant Blindness, Artistic and Scientific Narratives, Emotions, Memories, Research Study
Subject categories Arts, Biological Sciences, Educational Sciences

Abstract

Humans are becoming an urban species. Living in megalopolitan cities reduces intimate contact with the natural world thus placing greater emphasis on 'presented nature' settings, such as zoos, botanic gardens and natural history museums. Botanic gardens provide opportunities for aesthetic interactions with the plant world. However, previous research has demonstrated that 'plant blindness' inhibits human perceptions of plants. Increased extinction levels mean the world can no longer afford our citizens to see 'nothing' when they look at plants, the basis of most life on earth. Despite a key educational role identified in the global plant conservation strategy 2011–2020 botanic gardens, and allied settings, have received limited research attention. In the Swedish context the education system should provide students with knowledge about nature, the environment and sustainable development. Given the critical role of plants in ecosystem resilience it is imperative to motivate teaching and learning that can move beyond ‘plant blindness’ towards experiences in which teachers and learners see the importance of plants for a sustainable world. Contemporary research sources suggest that multimodal and sensoric experiences in ‘presented nature’ settings might create shifts away from plant-blindness towards reading the importance of plants. The proposed paper will present an overview of key findings from a recently completed three-year interdisciplinary research study ‘Beyond Plant Blindness – seeing the importance of plants for a sustainable world’, funded by The Swedish Research Council (Dnr 2014-2013). The sample of research participants in this three-year study focuses on trainee teachers studying at Gothenburg University and everyday visitors to the two institutions Universeum Science Centre and Gothenburg Botanic Garden. The main research question was: what impacts do presented nature settings a) with animals b) without animals have on plant-based learning experiences? This question was investigated in situ in the two aforementioned ‘presented nature’ sites. The main question was complemented by a series of questions in an online survey concerning trainee teachers’ knowledge and perceptions of plants and inquiries made concerning responses to specific artworks. In making our presentation we will draw on qualitative and quantitative data from four different research methods: • An online survey (trainee teachers) • Mapped conversations in two scientific education centres (trainee teachers and everyday visitors) • Recorded impressions at three specific art installations constructed by artist members of the research team (trainee teachers and everyday visitors) • Trainee teachers written responses to three science posters developed by the scientist member of the research project. The research team brings together specialists in art-based research, taxonomic science and education. This interdisciplinary focus is considered a critical element of our approach, which is centred on the notion of reading the story of Life as Plant and included art-based research installations in Gothenburg Botanic Garden. Our key findings demonstrate the value of connecting with plants through sensory interactions with living specimens, artistic and scientific narratives and the importance of visual methods of communication. Moreover, we will show the power of personal memories and emotions in building connections between plants and people. The presentation will include a discussion of the implications of our results for education and interpretation in contemporary botanic gardens and allied institutions and highlight issues for further study.

Page Manager: Webmaster|Last update: 9/11/2012
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