Posted in BGANZ, Botanic Garden, school holiday programme

Spring into the school holidays

Looking for ideas for school holiday programmes? Maybe there’s an activity on this programme you’d like to recreate. If you’d like more details on a specific activity, let me know in the comments and I’d be very happy to create a step-by-step blog post on it.

Spring poster

Posted in Botanic Garden, Interpretation, school holiday programme

Science and Art


As with any Botanic Gardens, we offer a wide range of educational activities across a variety of age ranges. Some are more successful and/or popular than others. When you look at the community education activities that are most popular – regardless of age – odds on they include a blend of art and science.

Despite popular opinion that one is either an arty person or a science nerd, there has long been a close association between the two disciplines. Both art and science are ways in which humans investigate and explore their environment in an attempt to understand and describe the world around us. Scientists and artists may use different methodologies and appeal to different audiences, but the motivations and goals are essentially the same.

In fact, science and art has a long history of successful collaboration. The ancient Greek word for art was techne, from which the words technique and technology are derived—terms that are equally applicable to both scientific and artistic practices.

It’s not difficult to blend science and art to create an activity that is both informative and creative. Here’s a selection of activities we run that have proven consistently popular with our visitors.

The School Holiday Activity ‘Seed Stories – Botanical Boats’ is part of an educational series designed to teach children (4 to 13) about the nature and function of seeds and how plants disperse their seed. This particular activity focuses on plants that use water for seed dispersal. After learning the ‘science’, participants put their creative talents to work creating boats from natural materials – using a Castanospermum austral seed pod as the boat hull. The boats are then tested for their ‘sea-worthiness’ in one of our small waterways.

seed boat

Make a botanical boat from seed pods.

In the ‘Painting Rare Local Flora’ workshop, we encourage people to get up close and personal with some of Brisbane’s unique, rare plants (eg Corchorus cunninghamii). The species chosen can vary from workshop to workshop, but involve participants seeing the plants in real life and then learning about their distribution, habitat and status. Choosing one rare species to paint – following the artistic style of William Morris – workshop participants use pattern and repetition to create a colourful design of leaves, flowers and fruit.

Corcorus mandala

William Morris inspired artwork featuring Corchorus cunninghamii.

‘Bugs in the Gardens’ is another popular School Holiday Activity – a version of which I am sure appears in every Botanic Garden’s activity line-up. The ‘science’ looks at identifying arthropods and understanding their life cycles. It includes a hunt around the gardens to collect and examine any poor, unsuspecting species minding their own business crawling, flying, swimming and burrowing in the ponds and garden beds. Using the real life specimens they observe, participants then select from a range of natural materials (leaves, nuts, twigs, berries and seeds) and use clay or hot glue (whichever is more age appropriate) to create their very own arthropod to take home.


How many legs and body parts are there in an arthropod?

In the ‘Art of the Leaf’ workshop, participants learn about the purpose and function of leaves. They look closely at a range of leaf characteristics, such as shape, margins, venation and texture and investigate the processes of photosynthesis and transpiration. The characteristics of the leaves themselves determine their artistic interpretation. Participants can create intricate filigree designs or simpler, linear patterns from cutting out sections of leaf from around the leaf veins. These are then mounted on heavy cardstock for framing and can be further embellished with stitched wool, beads and sequins.

leaf art


So as you can see, art and science are not mutually exclusive endeavours – they exist as a fabulous, collaborative synergy. Although it’s possible to run the scientific component of these activities as a practical, hands-on and purely scientific task – the fun and positive energy involved in doing it as a creative task, ensures that the participants have a positive memory of the science, as well as a lasting reminder to take home.





Posted in Uncategorized

World Environment Day Celebrations at Adelaide Botanic Garden


World Environment Day is the United Nation’s most important day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment.

Since 1996, Adelaide Botanic Garden has hosted tens of thousands of South Australian school students as well as their teachers and caregivers at what is now the state’s largest World Environment Day event.

On June 5 2017, three thousand Reception (Prep) to Year 7 students were greeted with perfect weather and participated in a range of interactive environmental presentations covering important topics from Aboriginal tools for living, preserving endangered species and native bees and spiders, through to worms and compost, food security and feral invaders.

The 35 presenters on the day were a combination of Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium staff, the SA Seed Conservation Centre, Garden Guides as well as external presenters such as Sea Shepherd, NRM Education, SA Museum, authors, Biosecurity, Cleland Wildlife Park and Adelaide Zoo.

World Environment Day at Adelaide Botanic Gardens continues to be a highly successful every year and schools add this as a regular feature to their annual calendar.

For more information about our event, do not hesitate to contact Education Coordinator Aaron Harrison:

Posted in Professional Development

You’re invited! Come to the BGEN workshop at the BGANZ 2017 Congress

BGANZ congress

The BGANZ Congress is just around the corner! If you haven’t registered yet, don’t delay, it’s going to be a great event.

The BGEN committee invites you to an interactive BGEN workshop on Monday 23 October at 4.15pm. If you are involved in the areas of education, interpretation, visitor and public programs, outreach and community engagement, and adult learning this workshop is for you. You’ll get to meet fellow botanic garden educators and share best practice, get excellent ideas and inspiration, and learn why BGEN is a valuable forum for sharing experiences and resources.

The workshop will be collaborative and high-energy, you’ll leave inspired with new ideas and new connections. Bring along examples of projects and ideas you’d like to share and we’ll learn from each other.

If you’d like to know more about the BGEN workshop ahead of the Congress, please contact Julia Watson, BGEN convenor:

Posted in Professional Development

NZAEE 8th Biennial Conference: An Ecosystem for Environmental Education

NZAEENZAEE (the New Zealand Association for Environment Education) promotes environmental education initiatives at both a national and regional level in New Zealand.

Join the NZAEE conference in April 2018, and see their call for abstracts below:

Wednesday 18 – Friday 20 April 2018

Wellington Girls College, Wellington, New Zealand


Educators, practitioners and supporters of environmental education are invited to submit abstracts of short presentations, short workshops, long workshops, or another format to be considered for the 2018 conference.

The closing date for abstract submission is 8pm on September 7th 2017, with no exceptions.


It has never been a more exciting & challenging time to be an environmental educator in New Zealand and around the world. Join us as we examine the challenges and celebrate progress and successes in the Wellington region, nationally and beyond, through a diverse and fascinating array of presentations, workshops, field trips and networking opportunities.

This conference will be exploring two core streams that support our ‘Ecosystem for Environmental Education’ theme.

The Ecosystem for Environmental Education represents the vast and interconnected network of individuals and organisations without whom our successes wouldn’t be possible. Throughout this conference, we’ll be exploring our own ecosystem and the ways we can nurture it to ensure its health for decades to come.

  • Celebrating and Strengthening Collaboration

This stream will celebrate current collaborations – identifying key aspects that make them successful and exploring tools and participatory design that will improve collaboration between partners and the wider community.

  • Expanding Environmental Education

This stream will explore and celebrate the contributions made by individuals and organisations that are not traditionally aligned with school-based education. This may include tertiary education providers, businesses, NGO’s, and private individuals.

More info here: and here NZAEE 2018 Conference Call for Abstracts

Posted in school holiday programme

Native Plant Survival Challenge

Learn about native plants while you have fun!

A great school holiday programme activity is a native plant survival challenge. We simply pick a selection of specific native plants (or print some photos of certain ones if we can’t get hold of  them e.g. flowers or fruit depending on the time of the year). These native plants are laid out on a table, and kids with their families have to match which plants are used for which activities in the bush. E.g. Rangiora leaves (Brachiglottis) is used as toilet paper – which as you can imagine the kids love to learn.

Native plant survival challengeWe set up six sets of the same activity to handle large numbers of people.

native plant challenge layout

At the end of the challenge, kids are encouraged to draw a picture of what they would take into the bush, which we then add to a portfolio they leave with us, or take home with them.

Kids and parents alike love learning about how useful native plants are, and always enjoy this activity as a family. It’s simple, cheap (we created the cards once and use them repeatedly) and a wonderful way to enthuse visitors about plants.

Posted in Uncategorized

Stewardship of Endemic Endangered Species Project – Botanic Gardens of South Australia

Baby Boomers have been arguably the most impactful of generations for the earth’s environment.

But what of the current generation of young people still at school?

What is their awareness of conservation and of the natural environment?

If the Mission Australia’s Youth Surveys* are observed, it would appear the environment is not even on their radar. Perhaps global warming is just too big and too hard for the average year 9 student to feel as though they can make a difference, after all it appears that their elders can’t manage to do so…….

What are the opportunities for them to become involved in and passionate about conservation were they feel as though their efforts do make a difference?

SEEDS is a program that gives them the opportunity and the passion. A collaboration between the Seed Conservation Centre of SA, the SA Seed Bank, schools and students called SEEDS (Stewardship of Endemic Endangered Species) is doing just that.

Real science, real conservation and real passion.

Stewards of today – Environmentalists of tomorrow.

The aims of the SEEDS Project is to:

  • increase students and teachers knowledge and awareness of environmental stewardship
  • provide an opportunity for students to be involved in direct conservation
  • involve students with scientists and effective science as part of STEM and to also raise awareness of the broader community regarding plant conservation.

Environmentally, we are seeing direct benefits to threatened species conservation, increased knowledge that may further assist threatened species recovery strategies, engagement of school communities in environmental stewardship and support plant recovery programs.

Further information click here


In securing the future of the planet, we secure happiness for ourselves. One of the aims of the Greens is to turn around the tide of pessimism amongst the young people of the world.

Bob Brown


* Footnote – The 2013 Mission Australia Annual Survey of Young People shows the Environment has dropped as an identified major issue from 37% in 2011 to 11.7% in 2014. Perhaps it is because the only thing young people are empowered to do about environmental issues is to put the rubbish in the correct bin and turn off the tap when they clean their teeth!