A highlight of the Reading Botany 2019 celebrations will be our symposium, “The Big Botany Challenge! How to promote passion for plants in our schools?” 

This symposium takes place next month on Friday 8th November at the University of Reading and will debate the most effective ways to enhance the coverage of plants in secondary biology education.

Our symposium committee has identified secondary education, and specifically biology education, as a key “break-point” in the plant education pipeline where plant love is potentially lost and The Big Botany Challenge will be a forum to debate the concept, the issues arising and the most effective ways to enhance plant visibility and coverage the secondary biology curriculum and consequently encouraging and nurturing the next generation of botanists and plant-aware scientists.

Registration is open follow the link here

If you recognise these issues and want to see the profile of plants enhanced in our education system, at whatever level, this is the symposium for you and we recommend early booking as spaces are filling fast!  We are looking for a suitably diverse audience to take the ideas forward and we welcome participation from classroom teachers, science heads, teacher trainers, curriculum designers and examination boards, text book and other resource providers and careers advisers, as well as those further up the botanical education pipeline including universities, museums and botanic and horticultural gardens and plant science employers.

Draft Programme (09.00-16.30, Friday 8th November)

Keynote presentations: 

  • Steve Blackmore – The Plight of British Botany: International Perspectives;
  • Julie Hawkins – The plant pipeline: teaching challenges.

Session 1: Fascinating plants and their stories:  Frank Mayle, Robbie Blackhall-Miles, Nigel Chaffey, Chris Thorogood and Alastair Culham bringing plants right into the symposium room demonstrating how plants make the world go round, how they are central to the solution of global environmental issues and how then can inspire and get young people hooked on the wonder of plant life.

Session 2: Careers scenarios and progression: connecting young people with career opportunities (Chair: Angela Hall and Simon Mortimer)  – With Celia Knight MBE – Building the Plant Health Profession, and Tamjid Mujtaba – Science capital and raising awareness, motivation and aspirations for science careers, and a poster session highlighting the range of plant-related career opportunities.

Session 3: Making the best of plants in the secondary curriculum:  (Chairs: Angela Hall & John Warren) – With Hannah Cheek, Dan Jenkins, Marcus Grace & Ann Scott and an interactive session asking if the plant content of our secondary biology curriculum is fit for purpose?  And if not, how we can do this better?

Session 4: What makes a great plant resource to inspire teachers & school students?  (Chairs: JP Flavell & Sue Townsend) – An interactive session using social media to evaluate plant resources for teachers, what makes a great resource and understanding how they can inspire young students including identifying gaps in coverage and future needs.

Session 5: Symposium next steps and practical outputs: How to make secondary education a better place for plants!  This session, lead by Sue Townsend and Jonathan Mitchley, will build on the outcomes of the previous sessions and audience participation to develop priorities for tangible and practical outputs to enhance the visibility of plants in secondary school teaching and help inspire a new generation of botanists and plant-savvy scientists.

The Symposium Committee:

  • Dr Jonathan Mitchley (Associate Professor of Field Botany, University of Reading);
  • Sue Townsend (Biodiversity Learning Manager, Field Studies Council);
  • Dr Tim Utteridge (Head of Identification and Naming (Asia Team), Royal Botanic Gardens Kew);
  • Dr Angela Hall (STEM Education Consultant);
  • John-Paul Flavell and Aaron Mills, Biology Teachers;
  • Professor John Warren (Chair of Training & Education Committee, Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland);
  • Professor Julie Hawkins (Professor of Plant Systematics and Evolution, University of Reading);
  • Dr Alastair Culham (Associate Professor of Botany, Herbarium Curator, University of Reading);
  • Susan Medcalf (Botanical consultant, RSK Biocensus);
  • Professor Simon Mortimer (Professor of Environmental Land Management, University of Reading);
  • Professor Frank Mayle (Professor of Tropical Palaeoecology, University of Reading); and
  • Andrew Happle (Lecturer in Secondary Science Education, University of Reading).

To find out more  email: j.mitchley@reading.ac.uk

Social media:

@readingbotany | @RNGherb | #plants2019


We are grateful to the New Phytologist Trust for financial assistance from an innovation grant to help realise our symposium


Our Symposium Motto: Teachers and school students unite for the love of plants!

Featured image of the leaking plant pipeline modified from various sources including www.businessandeducation.org

Image of excited primary school students (Oxford Road Community School, Reading) and University of Reading biology teacher trainees by Dr M

Image of bored secondary school students http://blogs.dunyanews.tv/14548/