The Natural Learning Centre Gibraltar – the next phase for 2019… The Biodome!
This April, the Alameda Botanical Gardens, one of the most iconic and ‘must-see’ landmarks in Gibraltar, is turning 203 years old.
Having undergone a few renovations since it was commissioned by the then-Governor of Gibraltar in 1816, to provide soldiers stationed within the Fortress with a recreational area, the gardens today boasts a vast and vibrant collection of plants, trees and flowers from all over the world.
With only 2.6 square miles of land, gardens are scarce on the Rock, which is why the Alameda Gardens and ‘The Natural Learning Centre’ are so important.
Reach Alcance caught up with Director of the Gibraltar Botanical Gardens, Keith Bensusan, to find out more about the Centre and its next exciting phase; ‘The Biodome’.
“Most of us in Gibraltar live in apartments, with little outdoor space. There is a danger of a growing disconnect between children and the natural environment.”
The mission is focussed on bringing children closer to nature in a hands-on way, and actively encourages them to ‘get their hands dirty once in a while’.
The Natural Learning Centre, which began in 2013, is already a well-used resource by schools in Gibraltar with over 1,500 pupils taking part in organised activities in 2018.
“Children learn about a diverse range of subjects that include hands-on planting, growing your own food, earthworms, the importance of pollinating insects, water conservation, recycling and renewable energy.”
To cater for the influx of interest in the Natural Learning Centre, Keith and his team are heading the construction of an impressive, dedicated Education Zone within the gardens, complete with its own Biodome.
“We want children to learn to appreciate and respect the natural world, but also to learn about a variety of different subjects in a unique setting. We are achieving much of this already, but due to the growth in popularity of our programme, we now need facilities to make further improvements.”
“The plan is, quite simply, to produce modern, forward looking and inclusive facilities for outdoor learning as soon as we can.”
The focus will be on modern sustainable techniques, such as hydroponics (a method of growing plants with a mineral rich solution, without the need for soil) and, as Keith explains, “how space can be maximised and how plants (especially food) can be grown in small spaces, so that even apartments can accommodate these.”
In order to ensure a secure environment for children to learn, the Educational Zone will not be open to the general public, but Keith assures us that “it will also accommodate a range of activities and there will be occasions when these activities are open to the public.”
This project is being crowdfunded, with an initial aim of raising £100,000 locally, and it is hoped that construction will begin in 2019, with only a matter of months from this date until completion.
The crowdfunding scheme allows sponsors ‘from all sectors of our community to become a key part of this project’ with a named plaque on the Education area outer fence.