When exploring the geography of informal STEM venues, Botanical Gardens play a critical role, yet are often forgotten about. In fact, they have a rich history of educational outreach through on-site gardening programs for children, youth, and families that often also imply some level of intergenerational programming. Some of the following questions have become of particular interest to me:
What role do botanical gardens play in engaging urban youth with science, technology, engineering, mathematics and urban agriculture (AgSTEM)?
In what ways do botanical gardens address food security issues?
Do they engage in local food activism?
And more generally, what role do botanical gardens play in terms of sustainability education?
These are some of the questions I have been trying to address in the context of my collaborative research with the Botanical Garden in Montreal.
In 2005, I followed youth as they gardened all summer in Jardins-jeunes, a gardening program for young children and adolescents at the Botanic Garden in Montreal, modeled after the first ever such program at the Brooklyn Children’s Garden. I studied the kinds of learning opportunities a summer gardening program offers to urban youth who volunteer to participate.
I also organized internship projects in the summer program for some of the youth I worked with in the context of other research projects, trying to connect them with unique opportunities to garden, explore nature and develop new relationships with youth from other parts of the city and nature.
Rahm, J. (2014). « I always enjoyed touching the soil and growing things! » A spatial analysis of youth gardening in a botanical garden. Brazilian Journal of Research in Science Education.
Rahm, J., Martel-Reny, M.-P., & Simard, V. (2015). « J’aime jardiner et rapporter quelque chose à la maison. » Le jardin botanique comme outil de développement des jeunes. Special issue on museum education in Québec. Éducation et Francophonie.