Botanical gardens have become some of the most popular travel destinations thanks to the beautiful landscapes and rich diversity of plant species in their living collections. Thus, botanical gardens serve as a base for public education on biodiversity. Botanical gardens commonly use visitor education centers which place emphasis on display and education to perform educational functions. However, so far, few studies have examined the extent that a visitor education center in a botanical garden can enhance its educational function.
In order to understand the extent that visitor education centers can enhance the educational function of botanical gardens，Mr. HE He and his supervisor Prof. CHEN Jin of Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) conducted a study in five botanical gardens, namely Xiamen Botanical Garden; Wuhan Botanical Garden,; Beijing Botanical Garden; Kunming Botanical Garden; and Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, containing visitor education centers throughout mainland China.
The researchers established the following two hypotheses: (1) A functional visitor education center in a botanical garden can improve visitors’ experiences in relation to knowledge acquirement. (2) A functional visitor education center may also enhance visitors’ satisfaction. They tested the two hypotheses by using an experimental investigation.
In all five botanical gardens investigated, visitors to the visitor education centers believed that they gained significantly more knowledge on plants and environmental protection compared to those who did not visit visitor education centers.
The study results suggested, in general, that the visitor education centers show promising results in relation to enhancing the educational role of botanical gardens investigated. Two of the visitor education centers which had fine designs and more participatory displays even helped to enhance visitors’ degree of satisfaction.
The researchers proposed that setting up a well-designed visitor education centers in a botanical garden could become a common practice in the establishment of new botanical gardens to improve their roles in public education. Meanwhile, botanical gardens should add more educational programs in their tourism management, from the perspectives of both conservation-education and entertainment.
The study entitled “Educational and enjoyment benefits of visitor education centers at botanical gardens” has been published in Biological Conservation, 149 (1): 103-112, doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2012.01.048.