What does an Education Officer do?

I am one of five Education Officers and we deliver the Education Workshops. The Education team also has two Educational Development Officers, who are more strategic in what they do and develop the education policies and workshops and so on.

We get a lot of schools coming in throughout the year and have in the region of five or six schools a day during term-time. When the schools arrive we introduce them to the Eden Project and explain why we are here and then offer them one of 12 to 15 different workshops. The workshops vary depending on the age of the children, as we teach all age ranges from reception right through to year nine.

We all have a background in education and some kind of environmental expertise or experience, so we marry those things together. The workshops are highly polished lessons, which focus on the children spending time out there in the biomes. We get them looking at things in a different way, depending on what the workshop is. If they do the workshop ‘Jungle Connections’ for example, they will be looking for all the different plants that we use all the time in our daily lives. If they do ‘Rainforest Rangers’ they will be looking at ways that they could survive if they were thrown into the jungle, having to survive on their wits from what they can find around them. In doing these workshops the children are looking at plants in different ways, which really get them thinking.

In addition to running the workshops I also get involved in helping to create them. Only yesterday myself and one of the Development Officers were looking at the new ‘Green Machines’ workshop. In this workshop the children look at all the adaptations of plants, finding out why it has thorns, flowers and big leaves for absorbing light and so on. We were working together to think about how we could improve it.

Do you enjoy your role?

I absolutely love it. What I love about the work is that the children are so receptive and for them, coming here is wonderful. Their mouths open when they see the place and they are going “wow”! Sometimes back in the primary school setup it is very hard to get that same level of attention, so you get a very positive response to what you give them.

Also, I love those moments when you cast something out, such as an environmental message or a bit of wonder about plants. It’s like casting a pebble into a lake and the ripples spread. You see all these receptive faces and don’t know which of the people in front of you are going to pick it up and run with it, or which will let it just fade away. You can’t help but have a belief that the future Ray Mears or Jonathan Porritts of this world will come to the Eden Project at some time and it is likely that we will meet them and it could be an important little moment in their lives. To be one of the first people to share something with young people is a real privilege and it makes it a joy to work here.

What do you like most about working at Eden?

I believe in Eden’s message and am a dyed-in-the-wool greenie! This is my background politically and is reinforced by my training as a geographer and my interests outside of work. It is great to be working at a place where I believe in the mission statement so strongly and that is why I am here. Plus, what is very important to me is that it is a lovely place to be anyway and a lovely working environment.

The people that work here are terrific as well and there is a lovely mixture of scientific boffins and arty people who are very creative, with a nice mixture of other people in the middle. There is a real culture of positivity here, which I noticed when I first joined Eden. When you walk into the pit to work people smile at you, which might seem obvious but it wasn’t the case where I worked before.

Tell us a bit about your background prior to working at Eden…

I am very eclectic and at school I could not decide what I wanted to do. I ended up becoming a geographer, but even then geographers are often called jack-of-all-trades master-of-none! I did Geography at university, before going travelling and then in my late twenties I went into carpentry. At around the age of 28-29 I got into acting. I did a two year course at Bristol Old Vic and worked as an actor for another couple of years. I did primary school teaching for about eight years before my wife decided to go back to teaching following the birth of our children. Now I work at Eden part time and the rest of the time I still run my own carpentry business. This works really well as it gives me the flexibility to work around my childcare commitments.