PS 1-173 - Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Education:  Teaching All Ages

Monday, August 8, 2011
Exhibit Hall 3, Austin Convention Center
Katherine E. Kovach, Biology, Duke University, Durham, NC

Scientific outreach is a rewarding addition to many scientific endeavors that does not have to be excessively challenging to the researcher.  Universities and businesses across the United States are putting increasing emphasis on the benefits of citizen science and scientific outreach within their communities and areas surrounding research locations.  One such venue that is receptive and welcoming to scientific outreach is the community garden.  People of all ages and economic standings convene at community gardens to work, learn, and benefit together.  This education module combined information on the evolution of seeds and the basic principles of gardening ecology with discussion about the independence and the economic benefits of small- scale gardening.  Methods of generating seedlings for a vegetable and herb garden from store bought or borrowed sources, along with effective germination strategies and proper plant care were the emphasis of this workshop module.  This particular workshop has been performed at various settings, most of which included community gardens.  Ages of participants ranged from 5 years, to 65 years, often in a single workshop.  A combination of demonstration and hands on activities were utilized, and reference materials were provided.


Presenting practical information that could directly impact their lives piqued the interest of participants.  Participants were then open to receiving information on evolution of seed sources, differences in plant forms, and communities within their soil.  Continued participation in the community garden was also encouraged and sustained through the activities and empowerment provided by this workshop.  This set of activities can be applied to a wide variety of audience types and the depth of the topics covered can be modified for any age group or educational background.  This allows for flexibility in the material being covered and encourages interaction between the workshop participants and the teacher.  A certain level of informality and comfort allows for better understanding, acceptance, and learning.  Communication is critical, and practical examples of more involved concepts are vital for promoting interest in science to the public at large.

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