Chapter Events and Public Education

Community Presentations

Planning to present

Chapters are often asked to provide programs on native plants to a wide range of community groups, from property owner’s associations to nature centers. Each Chapter should identify (or recruit) members who are skilled in public speaking, and are likely to be available to provide programs with sufficient notice. It is important to realize that demand for programs often exceeds the Chapter’s ability to provide them; you may need to be strategic and select target groups in advance. Also recognize that unanticipated opportunities arise, and it is good to have something “in the can.” Each Chapter should arrange for easy access to a laptop/notebook computer, portable audio/visual projector, and portable speakers when audio is required. A remote control for the laptop, a laser pointer, and book-light for reading notes in dark rooms are also helpful.

Ensuring high-quality presentations

The Society can supply DVDs and Powerpoint presentations on various topics that can be used should the Chapter have yet to develop a program featuring locally occurring plant communities. Experience tells us there are some common features to effective presentations, which appear in the box that follows.

Features of Effective Presentations

  • An engaging speaker and good photos are prerequisite
  • A great presentation is focused and timed to tell a story and cover a few topics well
  • Large sharp photos, rather than several small ones on a single screen
  • Both common and scientific names with each plant photo
  • Plant labels at top, rather than bottom of the screen to ensure they can be seen
  • Good clear, readable maps
  • Limited text that enhances audience understanding
  • Shows facts not easily conveyed verbally; e.g., 2,200 plant species; Residential lawn care accounts for 55% of all water use.
  • Excellent quotes, or summary statements
  • Contact information

Classes & School programs

Classes are another great way to attract new members. A Chapter can arrange to teach classes in a variety of educational settings—from Community College to Elder Hostels—and should identify such opportunities in their communities. Fees may or may not be charged depending upon whether the presenter is paid or not; Chapters can use volunteer instructors, or hire an instructor to teach classes. The University of Florida has a media library of videotapes on various plants and plant related topics that may be checked out through the local IFAS Cooperative Extension office.

Exhibits and Booths

Purpose of Exhibits and Booths

Each Chapter should prepare to bring the FNPS presence to public events. Staffed public education booths serve as a mechanism for members to meet the citizenry, answer questions about native plants, as well as address local conservation issues. Booths are especially effective for helping people learn about invasive exotic plant species in their area; often, you will be the only one they hear it from! People are typically amazed that familiar species, such as Mexican petunia, are a problem, especially since they see them in Florida's big box stores. If you happen to bring along examples of invasive species for public education, make sure they are marked as such. For example, Hernando Chapter has used a BioHazardSticker.pdf to get the point across.

Public events often feature native plant sales, which are also described in the Fundraising section. Most Chapters sponsor at least one Florida native plant sale during the year. Remember that it is advisable to sell native plants that naturally occur in your area, and ideally come from local plant material. This way you can acquaint the public with their area's natives, even if they don't buy anything, and the plants will be more likely to do well if they do. The FNPS website has a listing of plants by county where you can get ideas of what to sell at your plant sale. You can also talk to your local native plant nursery to see what they have on hand and what is appropriate for the time of year. You can print the plant descriptions from the website for use as information signs at the sale (be sure to configure your browser to print without extra browser header and footer text).

Plant sale or no, public events are great avenues to increase the number of members who play an active role in the Chapter, and can reveal leadership qualities to serve the Chapter long-term. Members can also gather information about public concerns and issues, as wel as opportunities to participate in the community. Public education booths are especially effective in letting people know about invasive exotic plant species. Many homeowners are eager to remove exotics from their property once they understand the issues, especially costs to taxpayers.

Staffing the Booths

Begin the call for volunteers to staff your booth several months out, providing a contact number and e-mail for those who wish to sign-up or need more information. Chapters can pass out a sign-up sheet at Chapter meetings leading up to the event. The sign-up sheet can recruit members to (a) help with set-up, (b) staff the booth for specific hours, and (c) pack everything up at the end.

Chapter Event Toolkit

  • Chapter Banner(s)
  • Folding Table(s) and chairs
  • Tent
  • Brochures Stands
  • Plastic boxes
  • Plants
  • Tabletop Educational Display
  • Reference materials on Native Plants & Invasive Exotic Species (FLEPPC List of Invasive Species)
  • FNPS Membership and Chapter Brochures
  • Chapter Meeting Schedule; flyer or business card
  • AFNN Retail Guides
  • Native Plant Coloring book
  • News Sign-up sheets and clipboard
  • Promotional give aways from FNPS and partner agencies
  • Merchandise & Cash box (when appropriate)
  • Stapler, scissors, tape, markers, pens, rubberbands, caseknife, bungies, and flagging tape
  • Weights to hold down materials in wind (rocks work great)

Holidays & Commemorations

Annual events can be fun and profitable for local FNPS Chapters. Earth Day in April is an excellent opportunity to have a booth, display or plant sale. Arbor Day is another annual event compatible with FNPS, as is National Public Lands Day in September. October is Greenways and Trails month with events planned throughout the State. Depending on your location, there may be local annual festivals where you will bring FNPS information to a new audience.

Standing Exhibits

In some cases, a Chapters in some cases provide self-service exhibits for setting or events. These exhibits often consist of an educational display that identifies the Society and the Chapter, with membership brochures and other take-away materials. Here are some good opportunities for standing exhibits:

  • County Fairs
  • Town market places
  • Partner events
  • Botanical gardens
  • Nature Centers
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