Previous Research

Learning in Botanical Conservatories — Previous Research

W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Tacoma, Washington

W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Tacoma, Washington

Research Summary
In 2008 we investigated environmental and science learning in botanical conservatories. We made field visits to five botanical conservatories in the United States, two in Canada, and two in England. Amy E. Ryken also conducted a long-term study of visitor engagement at the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Tacoma, Washington.

Visitor Engagement Study: Summary of Findings for MetroParks Tacoma

“Interpreting Nature: Connecting to Visitor Understandings” in Roots: Botanic Gardens Conservation International Education Review

Windows on Nature and Knowledge exhibition at Brooklyn Public Library

(un)written exhibition at Collins Memorial Library

We also shared our findings about each conservatory/botanical garden in videos published on YouTube.

Key Findings
Conservatories initially focused on the Victorian ideals of order and artifice by either creating large formal show gardens or taking a horticultural display approach by arranging plants in groups of related plant families and species. Increasingly, conservatories are using landscape immersion techniques or naturalistic landscaping, recreating climatic zones, and making interdependent associations among plants visible with education initiatives focused on the interconnectedness of ecosystems.

Botanical gardens typically have lofty educational goals such as:

Davies Alpine House & Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens

Davies Alpine House & Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew Royal Botanic Gardens

  • building empathy or instilling connections with nature (Ades, 2005; Peddretti & Soren, 2006)
  • changing people’s values and attitudes about environmental issues (Reading, 2005)
  • focusing on ecosystem-centered rather than human-centered understandings of natural resource use (Sutter, 2005)
  • engaging learners with concepts such as sustainability (Romano, 2008) and global climate change (Forrest, 2008)

In contrast, studies of the attitudes of botanic garden visitors indicate they

  • rate the restorative features of the garden setting as more important than learning about plants or conservation issues (Ballantyne et al, 2007; Connell, 2004)
  • value natural settings for restorative features such as being away from everyday scenery and being immersed in a different world (Herzog, Maguire, & Nebel, 2002; Scopelliti & Giuliani, 2004).
Enid Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden

Enid Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden

Ades, G. (2005). Awakening empathy: Connecting visitors with nature. Living Forests, 1, 12-14.

Ballantyne, R., Packer, J., & Hughes, K. (2007). Environmental awareness, interests and motives
of botanic gardens visitors: Implications for interpretive practice. Tourism Management, 29, 439-444.

Connell, J. (2004). The purest of human pleasures: The characteristics and motivations of garden
visitors in Great Britain. Tourism Management, 25, 229-247.

Forrest, T. A. (2008). How one botanical garden is engaging the public on climate change.
Public Garden , 23(1), 13-15.

Herzog, T. R., Maguire, C. P., & Nebel, M. B. (2003). Assessing the restorative components of environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 23, 159-170.

Peddretti, E., & Soren, B. J. (2006). Reconnecting to the natural world through an immersive
environment. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education, 6 (1), 83-96.

Reading, R. P. (2005). Is knowledge-provision enough? The relationship between values,
attitudes and knowledge with respect to wildlife conservation, Living Forests, 1, 19-22.

Romano, J. (2008). Leading the way to sustainability. Public Garden, 23(1), 6-9.

Scopelliti, M., & Giuliani, M. V. (2004). Choosing restorative environments across the lifespan:
A matter of place experience. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 24, 423-437.

Sutter, G.C. (2005). Ecocentrism in a museum setting: A Canadian case study. Living Forests, 1,

Amy E. Ryken

Amy E. Ryken

Amy E. Ryken studies partnerships that foster connections between schools and community resources, such as museums and outdoor environments. She is particularly interested in a broad definition of learning that considers how people learn, in a wide range of settings and activities, over the life span.
Amy E. Ryken

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