Bush Tucker in the Dunes

Neville Bonney, renowned botanist and author, will be guiding tours at the Tennyson Dunes Open Day on Sunday 28th September, 11am to 2pm.

The Tennyson Dunes Group has invited Neville to show us just a little of how Aboriginal people used coastal plants prior to European arrival.  Volunteers will also be on hand to explain how they’ve cared for the dunes over the past 19 years since the group formed.

Last year the Open Day attracted more than 100 visitors and with the weather looking like a perfect Spring weekend you can expect it’ll be popular again this year.

So, for an insight into a little known world make sure you get down to the Tennyson Dunes this weekend.

TennysonDunesOpenDay2014

Getting Sand Between Your Toes

Experiential learning is what it’s all about.

The best way to learn about nature, the best way to develop an appreciation for nature, is to be amongst nature.  Get the sand between your toes, so to speak.

To this end, the Tennyson Dunes Group is holding their annual open day this coming Sunday – 15th September 2013 – from 11am to 2pm.

Guided walks, led by the volunteers themselves, leave every half hour and you’ll get a chance to hear from special guests Professor Chris Daniels and Associate Professor Victor Gostin.

So if you want to hear about the natural history of Adelaide’s coastline, see what the volunteers do to protect the dunes, check out the wildflowers and native fauna or just want to get sand between your toes be sure to get down to the Tennyson Dunes tomorrow.

2013 Tennyson Dunes Open Day flyer

Iconic Australiana

I recently had the opportunity to go on a tour of the Currency Creek Arboretum which contains hundreds of species of Eucalypts from all around Australia.  Dr Dean Nicolle, who established the arboretum, gives an amazing tour with some very interesting anecdotes about each species and the research he conducts.

Dean Nicolle on tour

Well, the opportunity has arisen again.  This weekend (Saturday 31st August and Sunday 1st September) Dean is hosting another tour as part of the Open Gardens Australia program.

Eucalyptus preissiana ssp. lobata fruitIf you’re keen to learn more about Eucalypts, one of Australia’s iconic plant groups, then this is your chance.

Enjoy.

 

 

 

Eucalypt flowersEucalyptus flowers

Thinking is the Key

The Australian Association for Environmental Education conference is overflowing with great conversations about how to improve what we do as educators.  There is so much ground to cover, I think I’ll be writing about it for many months yet.

For now, I’d like to talk about the plenary session given by Professor Sam Ham from the University of Idaho this afternoon.  Looking around the packed auditorium I could see the audience were hanging on his every word.  He is such a fantastic communicator, which makes what he says even more powerful, since good education has good communication at its core.

Sam led by illustrating that as environmental scientists, managers and educators we are essentially different to the majority of other people on this planet.  People who are passionate about environmental issues are in the minority – we are not the norm in society.  Consequently, if we try to motivate others toward behavioural change by using things that would inspire us, we will be unlikely to reach the majority of people, and really only be preaching to the converted.

He went on to say, however, that most people are capable of doing the right thing (by our particular standards), but they will only do it for their own reasons.  The trick is finding out what those reasons are.  That’s where good survey techniques are important, but that’s an issue for a future post.

Perhaps the most important thing (to me anyway) that Sam said was that it won’t be what we say to them that will make them act, but it will be their own thinking that does.  Hence, we must get them to think, and find out the answer, for themselves.  The notion of constructivist learning is not new, but never-the-less it is often overlooked, especially in community education.  We have to get better at encouraging our audiences to think their own thoughts and find for themselves the motivation to act.  That means finding what is relevant to them.

That brings me to an earlier workshop by Grahame Collier from T Issues Consultancy.  He was discussing how to reach challenging people and groups.  The people that are disengaged by traditional community education campaigns.

One thing Grahame did was to showcase a few successful examples.  Some were quirky, such as the Shit on my Shoe campaign to encourage UK dog owners to pick up their dog poo, or Dog Breakfasts to protect threatened Hooded Plovers on South Australian beaches by inviting dog owners to a breakfast bbq and in the process talk to them individually about keeping their dogs on leads around Plovers.  Others were more sedate, but used a peer from that sector of society to champion the message, or used the personal approach of having face-to-face conversations about what it is that matters to them.

One great example that Sam used was encouraging walkers to stay on the path in sensitive forest areas of the Great Ocean Road in Victoria.  It wasn’t environmental or safety reasons which ultimately motivated them to stay on the path (in fact, even people who strayed off the path already held these beliefs).  In the end what mattered to most visitors to these areas was seeing the best view and getting the best photos.  So by reinforcing the notion that the path went to the spots with the best views, the rangers were able to change visitor behaviour considerably.  Only good research about your target audience can find what is most relevant to them.

Ultimately, people will not change their behaviour unless they want to.  Our job is to make the message relevant to them, and encourage them to find the answer for themselves.

Australian Association for Environmental Education Conference

I recently joined the Australian Association for Environmental Education so I can learn from other educators who’ve been down the same path.

I’m delighted to be attending the biennial conference next week in Melbourne – Creating our Next Courageous Steps.  It will be a four day bevy of environmental education ideas, covering all fields from pre-school to vocational and tertiary education.  Community education isn’t left out either.  In fact, if its to do with environmental education, it’ll be discussed at the conference.

AAEE Conference Banner
I’m particularly looking forward to tomorrow’s eco-education tour to CERES, the Port Phillip Eco Centre and the Royal Botanical Gardens’ Landscapes for Learning initiative.

There’s also some great workshops on how to encourage community and students to connect to nature, a look at marine education, wetlands, forest classrooms, engaging businesses, indigenous education and using photography and film-making to engage students.  These last two are a particular passion of mine.  There’s loads more of course, but instead of me banging on about it, just check out their program online.

I’ll post some detailed articles examining some of the things discussed, so watch this space.

Tennyson Dunes Open Day

The Tennyson Dunes Group is holding their spring open day, giving tours of the wonderful Tennyson Dunes, on Sunday 16 September 2012. It’s guaranteed to be a great day out.

This is community environmental education at it’s finest. Professor Chris Daniels and Associate Professor Victor Gostin will both be there to give guided tours, each highlighting the dunes in their own special way.

Tennyson Dunes 2012 Open Day flierThe Tennyson Dunes are the most significant coastal dunes on the Adelaide Plains.  They are the largest of only three pre-European remnants and the only ones to still have the original tertiary dune system.  Threatened species of plants and animals abound and they are the only place you can see what Adelaide’s coastal dunes might have looked like in Colonel Light’s day.

Come along and see why the Tennyson Dunes Group is the winner of the 2011 Premier’s NRM Community Engagement Award.  Not only will you experience a great tour, but you’ll be able to see the environmental education initiatives of the group (including excellent interpretive signs created by the Marine Discovery Centre), support local volunteers, and most importantly, learn about Adelaide’s fantastic coastal ecology.