I’m not going to lie. I was practically dragged out of bed last Sunday morning. “I just want to play Pokémon. That’s all I want to do. Yes I’m serious.”
And of course that old adage that would haunt me as a child every Wednesday night at Brownies and every Thursday night at swimming training – You’ll enjoy it when you get there – stings just as much now as it did then. YES, okay, I had a good time. And I got to play Pokémon afterwards when I got home anyway. Now leave me the hell alone.
As part of National Science Week this year, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney had an Open Day on Sunday 22nd August, offering guided tours of their labs and nurseries and collections, as well as self-guided tours around the gardens and other family-oriented activities. Having attended the Plant Pathology Tour, run by their resident pathologists, and the Herbarium Tour, which took us through the National Herbarium of New South Wales, I was so impressed by the organisers’ ability to cater to both kids and adults in their programming.
Sure, neither of these tours I attended were particularly suited to children, all but one of the four that showed up to the Herbarium Tour slipping out within the first ten minutes, but there was an entire hall filled with activities like plant mounting, botanical illustration and microscope viewing, plus an insect-themed self-guided mystery tour, and guided “bush tucker” and wildlife walks, so no one – not even this grumpy Sunday morning Running Ponies correspondent – could have been bored.
Honestly, how great does this look:
Having adults and kids simultaneously fascinated – that’s what Science Week should be about, but it’s a very tricky business to get right.
The Plant Pathology Tour took a group of six of us through one of the new labs at the Gardens, and we learnt about the disease cycle of chestnut rot, funguses, and how to extract, process and photograph DNA. The adults asked a lot of questions. I played it cool and asked nothing. #brainsabbath
Next I did something really stupid and opted not to line up for the sausage sizzle, all like, “Oh my God, there isn’t time!” The Herbarium Tour was in fifteen minutes. I’m not sure who I thought I was at that particular moment, but in hindsight I could’ve probably eaten about three before the tour started. (It was 2pm and I hadn’t had breakfast yet. Don’t judge me.)
I did get a charmingly eclectic sample bag though, its contents going progressively off-topic:
* Science magazines
* A magnetic waratah bookmark
* Stickers of a smiling water droplet
*A ruler with a T. Rex in space on it
Irrelevance aside, it was definitely one of the better free sample bags I’ve picked up at an Open Day. At least this shit I can use.
The National Herbarium of New South Wales looks like this:
Thousands and thousands of plastic red boxes in rows and rows and rows containing 1.2 million specimens from Australia and around the world. It might look and sound a bit dull, and I’m not even that into, you know, plants, but they’ve got an art exhibition in the foyer, a library, and every one of those red boxes are filled with these, which are surprisingly fantastic to look through:
And it’s all open to the public. I went in not knowing that the Herbarium existed, and came out seriously considering coming back and spending an entire day there.
We also had a tour of one of their labs and got an even more thorough walkthrough of the process of DNA extraction. We finished up and went outside and the sausage sizzle was gone. I panicked and wondered if they had food in the Gardens’ Shop. They did not.
Like the Melbourne Museum, the Botanic Gardens have a great Science Week program. I would have stayed and done the self-guided tour because it was a stunning Sydney day, but I don’t keep biscuits in my bag.
Visit PlantNET – the Herbarium’s online plant identification site here.