Interpreting nature: Connecting to visitor thinking

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Roots: Botanic Gardens Conservation International Education Review




Providing interpretation in a botanic garden offers us a challenge. Not only do we want to nurture visitors’ unique interpretations, we also want them to explore issues in a thoughtful way. In this article I compare two views of learning — the transmission model and the contextual model. To demonstrate that simply providing information limits our view of teaching and learning, I consider four different ways that visitors understood and interpreted nature within the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Tacoma, Washington, USA. Too often we focus on whether or not visitors understand a particular interpretative message rather than how visitors create their own interpretations from these natural settings. To help this process and foster learning in botanic gardens, I offer some questions for consideration.