Kew goes in search for the next Darwin
Press release, 5 January 2009
The Great Plant Hunt – the UK’s biggest school science project - www.greatplanthunt.org
Royal Botanic Garden, Kew (RBG Kew), is on the lookout to find the next Charles Darwin and it’s asking primary schools to join in. To coincide with the 200th anniversary year of Charles Darwin’s birth, RBG Kew has teamed up with the Wellcome Trust to create The Great Plant Hunt, which aims to get primary school children out and about and excited by nature.
In spring 2009, RBG Kew will send the UK’s 22,000 state maintained primary schools a treasure chest full of free resources to be used in the classroom, online and in the great osutdoors. The free resources are clearly mapped to the primary science curriculum for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales and include activities for children aged 5 to 11. With exciting missions to discover plants in the wild (from the school playing fields to weeds growing in the cracks in the pavement!) The Great Plant Hunt also gives children the chance to be part of the UK's biggest ever school science project. They will be invited to take part in a unique experiment which will help Kew’s scientists at the world-famous Millennium Seed Bank.
RBG Kew’s Professor Angela McFarlane comments: “This is tremendously exciting stuff! It’s kids doing real science and it’s fun. People often forget how young Darwin was when he set out on the Beagle. We know him as this bearded old man but in actual fact he was a mere stripling of 22 when he started his travels. The Great Plant Hunt will introduce the nation’s children to a lifetime of caring for the natural world. Who knows, we may find the next Darwin!”
The resources in the treasure chest are fully supported by a rich online resource featuring fun activities for each year group. Each year group has a set of dedicated resources with activities closely linked to learning outcomes. The year groups are: Darwin's Lookouts (ages 5-6); Darwin's Discoverers (ages 6-7); Darwin's Thinkers (ages 7-8); Darwin's Collectors (ages 8-9); Darwin's Investigators (ages 9-10); Darwin's Plant Detectives (ages 10-11).
The treasure chest includes a teachers’ handbook, booklets full of colourful activities for each year group, a storybook, fun stickers, magnifiers, a plant identikit and a fantastic plant press and mini seed bank. Three colourful, animated characters, Lily, Ash and an aged tortoise called Joseph, help bring learning alive from their tree house in the grounds of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Activities online include video clips of real-life plant hunters from exotic far-flung places and fun sorting and observation games. Teachers are invited to register their interest in the project by visiting www.greatplanthunt.org.
The Great Plant Hunt has been funded and commissioned by the Wellcome Trust. Dr Steven Sinkins, Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow at Oxford University, comments: "Charles Darwin, perhaps the most influential scientist of all time, made meticulous observations of nature and maintained an open mind in interpreting what he found. His methods were low-tech, but his science has revolutionised our understanding of the world and of our place in it. Children in schools across the country can readily follow his inspiring example."
The existing registration site – www.greatplanthunt.org – will morph into a splendid online resource to support the many printed and physical resources that will be sent to schools in spring 2009. There will be films of real plant hunters from across the globe and games and activities for each year group.
More than 22,000 treasure chests from The Great Plant Hunt will be sent to every maintained primary school in the UK. The chest will be packed full of resources so children everywhere can take part in hands-on science in a fun and accessible way. The distribution of the treasure chests will start around the time of National Science and Engineering Week.
As part of the project, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew will be inviting all maintained primary school children in the country to take part in a mass observation study called The Great Plant Hunt Week. The data collected will be stored on the website and some of the data will be used by Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank. The week coincides with activities for International Biodiversity Day.
Teachers & pupils across the UK can’t wait to get started on The Great Plant Hunt
- "This sounds like a really good project and a chance for us to do something as a whole school for science, as well as to help with research."
Science Coordinator St. Anne's C of E Primary School, Weston-Super-Mare
- "We've got some excited scientists here at Ludham who looking forward to The Great Plant Hunt!"
Head Teacher, Ludham Primary School & Nursery, Great Yarmouth
- "What an exciting project. I am sure the children at our school will be fascinated and eager to take part in learning more about their environment." Head Teacher, Roundwood Primary School, Harpenden
- "It sounds like an amazing project that will not only encourage the children (and their families) to get out and about more but will also provide many possible links to other subject areas. I can't wait!"
Science Coordinator, St. Ignatius' Catholic Primary School, Wakefield
- "I can't wait to get the resources and share the ideas with the children!"
Science Coordinator, Belmont Primary, Swadlincote
- "Sounds like a very exciting project that will enthuse children and encourage them to view plants in a totally different way. I am always looking for new ways to illustrate biodiveristy and the importance of plants as part of everyday living."
Science Coordinator, Kells Lane Primary School, Gateshead
- "What an exciting way to gain hands-on experiences of the natural world around us. My children can't wait to open the treasure chest and start being their own 21st century Charles Darwins! The timing is perfect because we are in the process of creating our own individual secret gardens."
Head Teacher, Mason Moor Primary, Southampton
- “The aims of this resource link very well with Scotland's new Curriculum for Excellence and our aim to use the outdoors as an extension of the classroom.”
Science Coordinator, Whitehills Primary School, Banffshire
For pictures and logos, please call Megan Gimber
Tel: 020 8332 3824
Photos can also be downloaded from http://picasaweb.google.com/greatplanthunt/TheGreatPlantHuntTreasureChest#
Notes to editors:
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding living collection of plants and world-class herbarium as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world.
Kew Gardens is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a major international visitor attraction. Its 132 hectares of landscaped gardens attract over one million visitors per year. In 2009 RBG Kew celebrates its 250th anniversary. For further information: www.kew.org.
Kew's Millennium Seed Bank is the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. By 2010, RBG Kew and its partners will have collected and conserved seed from 10 per cent of the world's wild flowering plant species (c.30, 000 species). The aim is to conserve 25% by 2020, however the project currently has no secured funding post 2010. Funds are being actively sought in order to continue to develop this vital work.
The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity in the UK. It funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK and internationally, spending around £650 million each year to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas. The Wellcome Trust supports public debate about biomedical research and its impact on health and wellbeing.
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