Practicing Conservation: Public Education and Awareness
When visitors hike the trails or visit the flower gardens at MUN Botanical Garden, they are presented with an important message: biological diversity is essential to the health of our environment. The Garden’s growth and development since 1971 has been a reflection of this message. Management practices, both in the flower gardens and in the natural areas have been shaped by this philosophy. Within the flower gardens, conservation practices include: minimizing the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and chemicals; encouraging nectaring insects and other wildlife into the gardens; discouraging the use of invasive plants; and using compost and other organic additives to enhance and enrich soil.
With this message in mind, the education program has been developed to encourage visitors to understand and adopt conservation practices. Interpretive signage in the gardens, along the trails, exhibits in the display room, publications and our public education programs and events have always reflected our philosophies.
A Centre for Environmental Education
MUN Botanical Garden has been a centre for environmental education for over thirty years. Curriculum-based school programs are available to students from Kindergarten to post-secondary levels. Education staff collaborate regularly with education personnel and teachers to ensure all topics meet objectives outlined in provincial curriculum guides. Some of the topics include: Trees are Terrific!; Plant Adaptations; Butterflies; Bats; Wetland Wonders; and Boreal Forest Ecology. Groups such as The Girl Guides and Boy Scouts also avail of education programs offered to them.
While most of the programming takes place out of doors, there is a classroom on site as well as a ‘child-friendly’ display room. 3.5 km of groomed nature trails allow students to experience “hands-on” learning. In recent years, learning resources and curriculum units available to teachers, youth group leaders and other educators have been developed. With the help of the World Wide Web, learning opportunities will expand beyond local schools and youth groups to the entire province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Outreach Programs and Informal Education Opportunities
MUN Botanical Garden has been a favorite destination for families since it opened to the public in 1977. The beauty of the flowerbeds and scenic nature trails can only be matched by the peace and tranquility experienced by all. The importance of fun and informal learning opportunities for our visitors has played a key role in the development of the Garden’s programs. The gardening, natural history and art workshops scheduled every year are usually fully enrolled with waiting lists. A full day of drop-in family programs, including nature hikes and story time is held every Sunday, from May to November, rain or shine. Many children participate in Junior Naturalist camps each summer, while in the spring and autumn, parents and children participate in the Nature Tots and Nature Detectives programs. Such annual events as the Potato Festival, Open House, Seniors’ Day and International Compost Awareness Week attract hundreds of visitors every year.
The Garden participates in outreach education whenever possible. School science fairs, Earth days, Environment week and other special events are but a few of the events education staff has attended over the years. More recently, the increase in activities and bookings at the Garden, has caused a decrease in education projects offered off-site. Recently, a school compost program has been piloted and we hope, with the acquisition of funding, to visit local schools with this worthwhile program. In addition, the Garden participates in informal education opportunities that complement the Garden’s mission by targeting a greater audience. Some of these events include Envirofest, hosted by Newfoundland Power , the annual Farm Field Day, hosted by Agriculture Canada, Pippy Park Days, and National Wildlife Week, to name a few.