The National Botanic Gardens
The National Botanic Garden of Wales is a research and conservation centre of excellence, and home to some of the rarest plants in the world, including some which only grow in Wales.
Paul Smith, 55, joined the team at the National Botanic Garden of Wales after retiring as a teacher and took on the role of running the organisation’s education programme. Paul welcomes 12,000 different school children to the garden each year and gives lessons with no limits on imagination, on subjects as diverse as meteorite hunting, campfire mindfulness and pirate ship building.
Botanic Garden Director Huw Francis says: “Paul’s passion and enthusiasm when teaching the children is contagious. He sees the school’s education programme as an incredible opportunity to enthuse children about science and the natural world and that really comes through when he is delivering the lessons. He makes them fun and engaging and the children come away excited about what they have learned.
“The skills that Paul and his team of educators and former teachers bring to their work are skills that come with age and experience in schools across the country. They are adaptable and creative in their thinking and have made our education programme exciting with lessons spilling over into the grounds to help spark the imagination of children and adults.
Paul says: "I find complete joy in sharing what we have here.
I think what is exciting is we have been able to develop ideas without the boundaries of a school timetable. We create bespoke packages to suit the schools and their specific group of pupils, as well as packages we can use in outreach when we go into the community to share ideas. This includes outdoor and out-of-the-box ideas for learning to support the Welsh Government's new creative curriculum."
Paul's job is, he says, packed to the brim with favourite moments, including bringing his previous experience in schools for children with special needs, and seeing their pleasure in the Garden as they discover alternative ways to learn. Or the sessions his team have developed for adults with brain injuries, sessions that he says, "are socially and physically absolutely brilliant for them". His team is currently looking at other gaps in support they might be able to fill, including group activities for young people with eating disorders and group support for their parents.
"The opportunities are endless," he says, before hopping back on his bike and cycling home over the mountains after another momentous day at work.