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Our Outdoor Classroom: Oxford University’s Botanical Garden

Written by Proud Siwanarak
IB year two student, EF Academy Oxford

Currently studying evolution, the Standard Level biology IB Y2 class and our teacher, Dr. Sherwood, went to the University of Oxford Botanic Garden. Founded in 1621, it is the first botanic garden in the UK. Entering the place, we saw a huge area filled with astonishing plants and flowers. A guide welcomed us. She was really helpful and informative, answering our curious questions. Not only that, but she also gave us interesting information and fun facts about the garden. Did you know it has nearly 6,000 different types of plants?

There are three areas in the garden: lower garden, walled garden and the greenhouse. The tour started with the lower garden. In this area, many medicinal plants from around the world – Africa, Europe, Asia – are planted for biologists to research them. The guide told us about how plants can be used for different reasons, essentially either for admiration or to cure diseases. It was fascinating to see how many different kinds of plants they have. As the tour ended, we had the opportunity to explore the other two areas of the garden by ourselves, while filling in a worksheet to see what we could learn. We explored the garden, finding the information by looking at plants (and even smelling or touching them), and reading about them and their names. It was a fun and new way to study plants.

botanical garden

One of the interesting stories that our guide mentioned was that there is a bench where the letters L+W were carved in it, which is from a character from a book, “His Dark Materials”, by Philip Pullman. She told us that the bench is where Philip dreamt of the story and got inspired. The Botanic Garden is also a place where Tolkien, the author of “Lord of the Rings”, wrote most of his work. I found fascinating how, although the garden is a scientifically interesting place in term of conservation, the garden is a nice spot to chill and find inspiration. In addition, Valeria, one of my friends, said that as she liked carnivorous plants best, she really enjoyed going into one of the glasshouse rooms – the one filled with different kinds of carnivorous plants.

The botanic garden is, of course, a great place to learn about different plants, but it is also a great place to just relax and look at beautiful plants and flowers. I would definitely recommend this beautiful and fascinating place to other biology students who want to see or learn more about the plants that they have been studying in their textbook – it really brings botany alive (literally)! It is also a great place to chill in the center of Oxford.

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