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The blob in the box

Graphic of an ordnance survey map

'What was the first animal in the world?’ said the small girl to the nice man whose smile looked somehow familiar. ‘It was a blob,’ replied Sir David Attenborough after some thought. Then he explained how some blobs had evolved into all the animals we see in the world today, while other blobs had evolved into plants. And the person who discovered all this was a chap called Darwin, born exactly 200 years earlier.

The place was St Jude’s, a socially and ethnically mixed primary school in South London. The occasion was the launch of the ‘Great Plant Hunt’, an audacious bid to reach every state primary school in the UK with Darwin-inspired experiments. And the project was a partnership between Kew and scientific foundation, the Wellcome Trust.

All the educational resources of the Great Plant Hunt were free and online. This was 2009, after all. But they also took a physical form, which arrived along with a mini seed bank, a plant press, a plant identikit, a Darwin storybook, a stack of stickers and more… all enclosed in a magnificent cardboard treasure chest. Known at St Jude’s simply as ‘the box’, the chest was a piece of theatre, made by Kew out of a unique blend of educational philanthropy, science and creativity.

Today there are some 23,000 treasure chests in the UK. Each has captured tens if not hundreds of imaginations. The Great Plant Hunt is now being adapted for use in India, where it will reach thousands or maybe millions more children. Meanwhile in St Jude’s, the school’s three-year plan to put science at the heart of the curriculum was achieved in just six months, thanks to Kew and the Wellcome Trust. And it all started on the day David Attenborough let the blob out of the box.

The Breathing Planet Campaign will seek support for the creation of a new family landscape and education centre at Kew Gardens.

Call us on 020 8332 3248 to offer your support, or donate online.

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People of the breathing planet

'Our partnership with Kew is evidence of the power of global collaboration.'

Professor De-Zhu Li, Kunming Institute of Botany

'I try to inspire our visitors to take personal action to help conserve the plants upon which our lives depend.'

Andy Jackson, Head of Wakehurst Place

Did you know?

Three out of four people in the world rely on plants for healthcare