Kew launches the world's longest recruitment campaign
Press release, 12 February 2009
As the world celebrates the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth (12th February), the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew) announces the search to find the great man’s successor. But don’t expect a quick result – this recruitment campaign could take twenty years!
Inspired by a year of celebrations to mark Darwin’s big day, the Wellcome Trust invited RBG Kew to develop an ambitious science project for primary schools. RBG Kew created The Great Plant Hunt, which aims to jump-start a lifetime’s interest in plant-based science in every child in the country.
The £2million project sees the delivery in spring 2009 of 23,000 treasure chests to every state maintained primary school in the UK. Inside there will be experiments and activities for children aged 5 to 11, designed to get them out and about and excited by nature.
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, Director of Content and Learning, comments: “We are facing a general skills shortage in science in the UK and nowhere is that more acute than in botany. Yet all life depends on plants - we eat them, wear them, live in them and most importantly they maintain the atmosphere and counteract climate change by absorbing CO2 and turning it into plant material. Moreover, there is a lot we do not know about plants. We don't even know how many types there are - about 2000 new species are recorded each year.
“By the time they reach secondary school many children already feel science is not for them. By 16 the majority are lost to science, seeing it as dull and repetitive. The Great Plant Hunt is setting out to change some of that by offering children as young as five opportunities to engage with real science and to explore the wonder and beauty of the world of plants. 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.”
Daniel Glaser, Wellcome Trust’s Head of Special Projects (Public Engagement) comments: “Children are natural scientists. It's about the innate ability to ask your own questions, not the questions of other people. Charles Darwin himself frequently collaborated with his own children on his experiments. They explored the small world around Down House where Darwin lived with his family for most of his life. The landscape with its 'thinking path’ and 'tangled bank' was as important to Darwin's ideas as the far-off Galapagos Islands and the world he discovered during the voyage of the Beagle. The Great Plant Hunt gives all primary school children the opportunity to explore the science of adaptation in a range of easily accessible UK environments - just as Darwin did.”
Parcelforce Worldwide will start to deliver the treasure chests to schools from March coinciding with the launch of National Science and Engineering Week (6-15 March). Inside the chests, the children will find details about all the experiments they can do along with storybooks, 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 the project alive. Real plant hunters from across the globe have supported the project and have recorded films so the children can follow their example.
The films will be available on the project website – www.greatplanthunt.org - along with sorting and observations games designed to hone the children’s science skills. Using Google Maps and Picasa, primary schools around the UK will upload data and pictures to help scientists at RBG Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank with their phenology research.
Inspiring primary school children to engage with science
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."
Professor Angela McFarlane adds: “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! In twenty years, RBG Kew could be employing some of the young people we are aiming to inspire today. The beauty of Darwin's science is that by copying his methods we can all find out about the natural world around us. Even very young children can be inspired by the wonder of things that grow to ask really important questions including ones we don't know the answer to. Too often young people only experience science as pat answers and facts they have to learn off by heart. That is not what scientists do, it is certainly not what Darwin did, and it doesn't have to be how school science is either. The Great Plant Hunt offers lots of opportunities to bring real science into the primary curriculum.”
- A LIMITED NUMBER OF PREVIEW TREASURE CHESTS ARE AVAILABLE – PHONE +44 (0020 8332 3824
- FOR FURTHER PRESS INFORMATION: please call Graham Thomas or Harriet Williams on +44 (0)20 8332 3823 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
- For pictures and logos, please call Megan Gimber on +44 (0)20 8332 3824 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Photos can also be downloaded from http://picasaweb.google.com/greatplanthunt/TheGreatPlantHuntTreasureChest#
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