As Adult Learning Team Leader, I have been working to create opportunities for participatory experiences for museum visitors. Traditional lecture still have their place, but they shouldn’t make up the bulk of our offerings. Working with colleagues, and based on great examples of Café Scientific, and the amazing work, and generosity of the Dana Centre (they share a lot of resources on-line for hosting your own dialogue events) I was inspired to host SWAP Café.

    A hands-on way to learn, the most recent SWAP Café on March 27th was a combination of a panel discussion and a round table. Three panelists, the Royal BC Museum’s Curator of Botany and Earth History, Dr Richard Hebda and two professors from the School of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria, Dr Eric Higgs and Dr Brian Starzomski stimulated reflection and inspired new thoughts and ideas by each giving a short, 15 minute presentation about Novel Ecosystems. After each presentation the audience was invited to turn to the person next to them to briefly discuss what they just heard.

    SWAP Cafe

    Novel Ecosystems: Intervening in the New Ecological World Order
    Edited by Richard J. Hobbs, Eric S. Higgs and Carol Hall

    After the final panelist, the audience moved to one of three tables around the room. Then in the style of speed dating, the panelists each joined a table for a more intimate discussion before moving to the next table and so on.

    The audience was no longer sitting back, but provided input and ideas that helped to shape the evening, and create a unique experience. A quick poll of the room at the beginning of the event showed that there was a range of experiences and expertise from retired professionals to graduate students to weekend enthusiasts. It was great to see the conversation continue, even when a panelist was on the move between tables.

    Many topics were discussed and ideas were hatched, but the question was asked, “What happens to this discussion once we leave here?” I can suspect/hope that some of the participants might act upon what was discussed in their own projects or research but I can’t really know (unless they respond this post – hint, hint). There was one idea that a number of participants seemed to latch onto so  I am putting it out to see if  it can start an on-line dialogue. The idea  came to be known that evening as “Boulevards for Biodiversity”.  Accepting that our own values play a role in what future ecosystems might be like and their role, what if we stopped putting so much value on tidy green lawns and encouraged municipalities to use boulevards to demonstrate and foster Biodiversity. The idea is to grow a variety of native species, both common and rare, that represent our natural legacy and are suitable for our climate.  Many participants at the table that originated the idea grew vegetable gardens instead of front lawns – why not turn boulevards in to bastions of biodiversity full of our wonderful wild flowers instead of weeds and water-hungry grass?

    Does this idea resonate with you? #boulevards4biodiversity


    Kim Gough


    Acting Director of Audience Experience

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