The Missouri Botanical Garden has been awarded a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for $140,605. The money will go toward developing the Botanical Garden’s IMAGINE program. IMAGINE stands for Innovative Modeling Across the Garden to Investigate Neighborhood Ecology. The project will form a partnership between the Botanical Garden and nearby schools to teach kids about environmental issues in their communities.
“It’s not some abstract save the environment a thousand or 2 thousand miles away, but ‘I can understand the environment right in my neighborhood right in my back yard.’; It makes it real,” said Robert Coulter, director of the Litzsinger Road Ecology Center at the Botanical Gardens.
The IMAGINE program teaches kids to use MIT-developed modeling software to investigate key environmental issues, such as invasive species and bioretention or drainage concerns. Students will study the ecological systems existing in their community and use that data to develop models for predicting the effects of these phenomena over time.; Coulter says the program’s focus will give kids a chance to engage with major environmental concerns on an approachable level.
“Just by bringing it local it makes it much more real,” he said. He added that the program bridges the gap between youth interest in technology and the environment.
Without the funding, the garden couldn’t dedicate the time and resources to building the partnerships or providing teacher development needed for the project to flourish. Coulter says the students will also benefit on a personal level.
“I think this is a really important piece in terms of building identities as potential scientists but more importantly as engaged citizens in their community,” he said.; Coulter believes the program is not just another field trip-style endeavor but will engage kids on a deeper level of thought.
“They’ll come out of it having identified important issues and getting a better handle of what happens over time,” he said.
The program is in development as the Missouri Botanical Garden is still working to determine which schools will be included in the project.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services also awarded a $150,000 grant to The Magic House for the development of a new science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) exhibit for ages 2-6.