TEACHING PLANTS (2017)
Graduation research project of the Media Technology MSc programme, for which I developed and tested an innovative approach to environmental education at the Hortus Botanicus botanical garden in Leiden.
In traditional approaches to free-choice education in botanic gardens, visitors have to look at written signs or digital devices to receive educative content. While this can provide them with valuable information, it also distracts them from physically exploring and experiencing plants. Physically experiencing nature is found by many studies to be an important component of effective environmental education.
For this reason, I developed a system of sensors and machine learning algorithms that allows people to interact directly with living plants to receive information about the parts of the plant that they are interacting with. By touching, smelling and looking at the plant, people can engage in a playful interactive dialogue that aims to teach them about the plant and its environment. This enables a form of experiential learning that integrates cognitive and affective domains in a free-choice learning setting.
In a scientific study, I compared a setup with the interactive plant to a setup where visitors of the botanic garden received the educational content through a tablet device. Results indicate that my approach was more effective at motivating a broader group of visitors to learn about plants. This lead to higher learning rates.
* Special thanks to my supervisor Edwin van der Heide.