Branching out Reaching younger audiences and telling the story of plant STEM Careers through technology
Jessica B. Turner-Skoff – The Morton Arboretum, USA. United States
Carissa Dougherty – The Morton Arboretum United States
Meghan Wiesbrock – The Morton Arboretum United States
The fields of plant science and horticulture are vital for a myriad of global issues, including food security, conservation of biodiversity, and human health. However, plant blindness, or the idea that people do not appreciate or understand the importance of plants, poses a real challenge in attracting the next generation of plant scientists and professionals. If efforts are not made to engage and communicate with this important audience, we will not have the skilled workforce able to solve these problems. Interdepartmental teams at The Morton Arboretum are transforming how they engage with this audience by using new technologies and storytelling techniques to share the importance, viability, and accessibility of plant careers. Using information derived from a focus group, the Arboretum developed Planted: Finding Your Roots in STEM Careers podcast. This podcast provides an authentic experience with STEM professionals and showcases the opportunities associated with the field. To make this podcast relevant for schools, there are lesson plans that complement each episode; teachers can engage students with the audio content through activities and visuals. In addition to the podcast, the Arboretum created a series of online graphic novels called Canopy Career Chronicles. Teenagers take an online quiz to determine their interests and the interactive platform connects them to graphic novels that highlight the career journeys of diverse plant science professionals. Each of these resources allows the unique personalities of real-life professionals to shine through, creating deeper, more meaningful connections to students. Learn about these two unique resources, the opportunities and challenges of using new media platforms, the process of collaborating with a diverse team of experts, and how to use evaluation methods to improve outcomes. Technology and collaboration are important tools for informal learning centers to use to connect and transform the targeted audiences' knowledge and perception of science.
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