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Biology curriculum failing to teach “vegan generation” about plants – University of Reading

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Biology curriculum failing to teach “vegan generation” about plants

Release Date 08 November 2019

Flower in a meadow

Young people learning about biology are failing to grasp basic plant knowledge, a major meeting of botanists and education specialists will hear today.

At a symposium happening at the University of Reading today (Friday 8 November), leading academics, teachers and education policy experts will discuss the challenges of teaching about plants.

They noted that recent studies suggest that young people taking further study in Biology can only identify a handful of common plants, and there is an increasing level of ‘plant blindness’ where most people overlook the interest and importance of plants in the environment which makes up 80% of worldwide living matter.

 Dr. Jonathan Mitchley, University of Reading said:

“As a generation of young people get to grips with climate change and the positive impact that a vegan diet can have, it is astounding that so few have a basic understanding of plants themselves.

“Plants are fundamentally essential to human existence, and if we are going to protect ourselves against the worst effects of climate change we need to focus more – not less – on plants and botany.

“I am deeply concerned that current efforts have failed to spread greater knowledge about plants among this generation of young people, even though an increasing number are turning to vegan diets. Meetings like the one we have had today gives me hope that we can reignite a passion for plants and show the critical role that plants play in our world.”

A keynote address by Stephen Blackmore CBE focused on how the decline in botany has led to the decline of Britain’s leading role in worldwide subject research. Blackmore, who graduated with a degree in Botany from the University of Reading in the 1970s reflected on innate interest in plants among young children that is lost through the education system and shared how botany will contribute to the science needed to address food security and biodiversity loss as well as climate change.

The symposium included sessions looking at existing models of teaching about plants in the curriculum, and heard from a panel including Hannah Cheek from Pearson Edexcel on Does assessment contribute to the lack of emphasis on plants in the curriculum. Sessions also discussed best practice resources for teaching botany, and career opportunities in plant sciences.

Further details about the symposium can be found at:
https://research.reading.ac.uk/botany/the-big-botany-challenge/

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