James Jarvis

This month we’re up close and personal with James Jarvis, the inspiring education manager at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. 


I studied for a human biology degree and then worked for the University of Birmingham as a medical researcher for three years. I wanted to pass on my love of learning to ‘the next generation’, so I became a secondary school science teacher for four years. I have worked for Birmingham Botanical Gardens for the last two years. Every day I get to excite and enthuse children about plants, the environment and how we can all make a positive difference to our planet.


As education manager, I welcome schoolchildren (and their teachers) to the Gardens – more than 16,500 in the last school year alone – to be amazed by our spectacular glasshouses and grounds and educated by our entertaining activities. I have a team of four staff and eight volunteers who help me ensure that everyone has a great time. We also welcome nurseries, colleges, uniformed groups (eg scouts) and adult learners. I also have responsibility for the Gardens’ exotic animal collection, where we teach about animals such as tenrecs, sand boas and panther chameleons. They say never work with children or animals, but I do both and it’s great!


I’d love to see every child to understand why plants and the environment are so important to all of us, be that at school, through a visit to the Gardens or just by spending time outside. My personal ambitions are to see Machu Picchu in Peru, explore Australia and New Zealand and walk Britain’s coastline for charity.


Being here at all! As a toddler, I spent nearly a week in a coma with meningitis and septicaemia and wasn’t given much chance of recovery – but here I am! I love that I am able to use my skills and qualifications to make a small but real difference to the lives of the children that visit the Gardens.


You don’t always deserve what you get, and don’t always get what you deserve. So, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!


It’s my home city and a great place to be, especially as it has more parks to get out and enjoy yourself in than any other European city of a similar size.


When I’m not spending time with children at the Gardens, I am with my own young ones (three-and-a-half and four months). I enjoy sport – I play five-a-side football, go to the gym and am an avid supporter of Birmingham City and Warwickshire County Cricket Club. I like cooking, reading, watching nature and historical documentaries and having a good meal with family. However, I am never happier than when I am outside, gardening, walking or playing in the park with my children.


Don’t ever think plants are boring! They feed us, clothe us, shelter us, keep us healthy (medicines) and keep us alive (breathing). We learn more about how amazing they are every day – you should come and see for yourself!