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For Your Consideration 9.4

Foods for Thought

In addition to offering basic and advanced courses for adults in gardening, landscape design, floral design, botanical illustration, and plant studies, The New York Botanical Garden has a wide selection of food-related classes. The following have been among their offerings:

  • Wild Foods of Spring examines forests, wetlands, and native plant gardens and information on safe and responsible foraging.
  • Mushroom Mania surveys the great variety of mushrooms grown in the New York City area. Students learn the basis for successful field identification, including how to differentiate edible from poisonous species.
  • Vegetarian Cooking is more than nuts and berries. Participants are led in the creation of nutritionally balanced multi-course vegetarian meals.
  • Cooking with Grains examines ancient and uncommon grains such as amaranth, spelt, kamut, and teff and explores preparation methods for quinoa, millet, kasha, and others. • Quick Vegetarian Gourmet teaches students to create fine meatless dishes with flair and flavor in approximately thirty minutes. • Wild Food Recipes introduces students to methods of incorporating wild vegetation, such as chicory, dandelions, day lilies, fiddleheads, and nuts, into everyday recipes.
  • The Portable Garden: Growing Herbs in Containers offers methods of designing and planting portable gardens and teaches how to grow herbs successfully indoors or on a city terrace or country patio.
  • The French Kitchen Garden in America addresses such issues as whether or not to use raised beds or organic gardening methods, and how to design and plant gardens.

For further information or to request a catalog of courses call The New York Botanical Garden at (718) 817-8747.

Do You Thrill or Chill the Audience?

In her book Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Presentation with Power, Punch, and Pizzazz, author Diane DiResta provides tips on creating successful presentations. Here is DiResta’s list of the ten most common mistakes that speakers make.

1- Lack of preparation or focus. If you’re unprepared as a speaker, it shows. Take the time to know your topic and rehearse your presentation out loud. Be prepared for questions.

2- Speaking too long. Starting and ending your presentation late shows a lack of respect for the audience. Allow time for people to settle down and know how to cut and summarize a presentation if you sense you’re running out of time.

3- Not knowing the audience. One of the biggest mistakes is not meeting the needs of your audience. Do not give the same presentation to different groups; tailor it for each audience.

4- Projecting the wrong image. Dress appropriately. Do not distract from your presentation.

5- Using visual aids ineffectively. Check all of your equipment before you speak, and have a backup plan in case something fails.

6- Including too much material. People can’t digest information if you give them too much to chew on, so give them the condensed version. Make your points memorable.

7- Using inappropriate humor. The best bet is to poke fun at yourself, never at others. Better yet, if joke telling is not your forte, avoid jokes altogether.

8- Speaking in monotone. Too many speakers fail to realize the importance that tone of voice plays in the success of their presentation.

9- Not connecting with your audience. Begin your presentation from the listener’s point of view and continue to address what’s important to them.

10- Offering weak evidence. Don’t expect the audience to take things on faith. If your presentation is sketchy or lacks substance, flesh it out and fill in the details.

AAM and the Sin of Omission

The editors of The Docent Educator find it curious that the 2000 National Program Committee for the American Association of Museums’ Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD, does not include one person currently holding an education position. Of the 27 members, the vast majority are directors, several are presidents, and a few are curators or exhibition designers. What has become of “Excellence and Equity,” the AAM’s reinforced commitment to education?

Docents at the Opera!

The Canadian Opera Company (COC), in Toronto, offers educational programming that introduces students to an art form that “is powerful, emotional, immediate, and larger than life, and that deals with timeless mythology and the eternal struggles and joys of human nature.”

Middle and secondary school students can attend dress rehearsals of opera performances for a very reduced price, just $12 (Canadian). In addition, students at the dress rehearsals begin with a 45 minute docent-led discussion of the story and background of the opera.

The Living Opera Program allows participants to attend a Student Dress Rehearsal, preceded by a day at the COC on location, taking a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of an opera. First, students are introduced to “the challenges faced by composers of opera. They also consider some of the innovative ways in which composers tackle those challenges.” In addition, students investigate the dynamic designs for stage production from the COC’s technical department.

Other docent-led tours include a walking tour of the COC’s building (including visits to rehearsal studios, wig and make-up departments, music library, wardrobe, prop shop, coaching rooms, as well as the Imperial Oil Theatre) and Opera Storytime (an introduction to the stories and music of an opera as told by a dynamic storyteller).

To learn more about the Canadian Opera Company’s educational offerings, contact their Education coordinator at (416) 363-6671, extension 307, or e-mail them at:

“For Your Consideration,” The Docent Educator 9.4 (Summer 2000): 4-5.

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