2018 Evaluation. Kew Gardens project. Part 1: Joseph Hooker

44 Participants have secured Arts Award accreditation - for most of the cohort this is their first, and only formal qualification and has been key to raising their aspirations.
Hooker & Kew

The Protégé approach is to raise the aspiration of the young people we work with through introducing them to exceptional and inspirational people throughout history.

In the case of our Kew Gardens project, we chose explorer and botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker, who also served as the Director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, for 20 years. For his contribution to evolutionary science and his dedication to the field of botany, Hooker was awarded the highest honours of British Science. This made him an interesting choice for a project with groups of students from specialists schools. Firstly there is a high chance that these young people would not have come into contact or learned about Hooker as part of their curriculum, and secondly, the Protégé approach is such that we take someone with large-scale achievements and break them down in a way that is practical and applicable for our young people. As an example:

Hooker’s most significant legacy is travel and discovery. He traversed the globe to far-flung countries, which creates soft connection opportunities of rapport between us and the students by allowing us to ask “Where did you travel to on your last holiday?” and “what do you like about travelling?”. This can then transition into sessions built around practical skills development; If you (the student) were to travel for a long period of time, what would be the most important items to take with you? How much money would you need to travel? What are good preparation techniques? etc.

These types of sessions, especially for these specialist school groups are essential towards preparing them for when they have to graduate and leave a well-supported environment.

The workshops covered all the key stages of an explorers adventures, and so students were given a chance to recreate the journeys of Hooker. They learned to use maps and began to understand how maps were used historically and how the role of the map has been changed as a result of technology. The Workshops were successful in raising participants awareness of the heritage themes of the project. They successfully made the link between plant migration and how British gardens changed as a result of Joseph Hookers expeditions and the consequent introduction of plant species into the English plant ecology. 

The groups looked at the idea of plant survival and the conditions required to thrive and used this to understand how their own well-being can be supported by different environments and activities. The story of Joseph Hooker allowed the students to look at their own personal challenges and the students are in the process of creating personal portfolios and content to document their understanding in their own version of the ‘Flora Indica.’

As with each project, our approach is to plan and outline our sessions ahead of time. This allows us to mentally and logistically prepare all expected assets/content and materials ahead of time. This is also done knowing that due to the nature of the groups we have worked with, we have to remain flexible. Often not all participants are able to attend each session, and not every pre-planned session connects with all students, and more commonly; we allow for new paths of interest to open up as the project progresses. Having a certain degree of flexibility then allows us to explore these paths and tweak our existing sessions to fit in new ideas or areas of interest that may spring up during a planned session.

For the Kew / Joseph Hooker sessions, our general session plan was as follows:

1) Joseph Dalton Hooker, his expeditions, plant travel and taxonomy

2) What is the Flora Indica? (Joseph Hookers opus work)

3) My Personal Everest. Inspired by Hooker as he is possibly the first western explorer to sketch Mount Everest 8 years before it was formally identified and named. Participants will reflect on a personal life experience in documents and sketches.

4) The personal and scientific correspondence of Joseph Hooker during his expeditions and maps of expedition routes.

5) Retracing the mind and footsteps of an explorer, where participants will collect specimens from an expedition route created by the participants between Richmond Park and Kew Gardens via the river embankment.

6) Floral art and freezing flowers to create a floral vista for each of the places Protégé work with the students – Protégé Gallery, hospital and special needs centre.

Each session also has a planned outline for activities that we expect to take our young people through in the session. Again with the same approach of having pre-planned sessions we build-in a degree of flexibility, this time by allowing enough activities to fill the allotted time of the session and an additional activity (or two) as a back-up in the event that one or more of the activities is completed quicker than expected.

As indicated above, one of the sessions took the groups to Kew Gardens. The Palm House, the Marianne North Gallery and the recently refurbished Temperate House have been hugely inspiring non-institutional settings for these young people. These opportunities have allowed them to learn about the chosen artistic themes in an outdoor/nature environment with a focus on plant migration, plant survival and they have begun to demonstrate some of this learning in terms of their own social and emotional adjustment.

As a significant number of this cohort are approaching the school leaving age we worked closely with curators Cam Sharp Jones and Tom McCarter and learning head, Steve Crosby at Kew Gardens, and colleagues from pastoral support teams at the specialist school and mental health teams to develop course content so it also included ‘beyond school skills’ and workplace familiarity to increase the employability of young people who were considering their progression pathways.  This was made possible by the flexible and supportive approach of our main partner Kew Gardens.

44 Participants have secured Arts Award accreditation – for most of the cohort this is their first, and only formal qualification and has been key to raising their aspirations.

Explorer Worksheet

Creating Flora

Botanical Worksheet

Reflective work after Kew Gardens visit

A collection of our young learners’ Flora

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