An Exploration of Botanic Garden – School Collaborations and Student Environmental Learning Experiences

  • Asimina Vergou

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Botanic gardens, as outdoor education settings, combine educating about the interdependence of people and plants, and the importance of protecting their habitats so that people’s willingness to protect the environment is enhanced. This research has been conducted within a renewed interest in the educational significance of learning beyond the classroom in the UK, and considers that botanic gardens – school collaborations have the potential to overcome barriers to the provision of outdoor education. Additionally, such collaborations offer appropriate grounds to investigate the relationship of school-based and outdoor learning. This research looks for the factors that militate in favour of successful collaborations between botanic gardens and schools, and explores how such collaborations shape pupils’ environmental learning experiences in the school and in the gardens.My research entails an ethnographic multi case study of collaborations between Wakehurst Place and three local primary schools. I conducted my fieldwork during the school year 2006-2007, and my research techniques included participant observation, semi-structured interviews, informal talks, keeping fieldnotes, and collecting documents and artifacts. Data were analysed using thematic analysis techniques.My research shows that the history of collaboration between the gardens and local schools, the organisations’ interdependency, and the development of professional relationships between the individuals involved, are the overarching factors that contribute to the success of collaborations. In addition, acknowledging that experience can be conceptualised in different ways, this research has shown that successful botanic gardens – school collaborations can result in pupils’ linking their environmental learning experiences across settings. Arguing that pupils merge the learning they acquire from different sources into a whole unit, and taking into account that individual behaviours are influenced by a variety of factors, it is suggested teachers and educators need to focus on encouraging pupils’ critical thinking on environmental issues through environmental learning experiences in the gardens and at school.
Date of Award1 Mar 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorBill Scott (Supervisor)


  • environmental education
  • botanic gardens
  • learning

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