Archives For nature play garden

Seven years ago, we dreamed of turning a gravel parking lot at the Chicago Botanic Garden into something defining—a place where learners of all ages could explore and become inspired by the natural world.

My name is Eileen Prendergast, and I’m director of education at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time flipping through blueprints of that place, the Regenstein Learning Campus, the new home base for the Joseph Regenstein, Jr. School of the Chicago Botanic Garden. And I’ve been counting the days until we could open the doors to the public.

That day has finally arrived.

PHOTO: The Regenstein Learning Campus, as viewed by drone.

The Regenstein Learning Campus

I never could have imagined the rich details, the subtle and not-so-subtle ways in which the Learning Campus connects people to nature. Consider the heart of the campus, the Learning Center, which has 12 indoor and two outdoor classrooms (for cooking, yoga, and other classes, along with space for the new Nature Preschool). The Learning Center is also home to:

  • an art installation that reveals the transitioning shades of the Chicago Botanic Garden throughout the seasons—color rectangles show leaves, stems, berries, or flowers, photographed in extreme close-up,
  • benches made by a master wood-carver from the reclaimed wood of ash trees, and
  • an enclosed indoor beehive that allows honeybees to roam outside—and pollinate flowers in the new Nature Play Garden—and return through a long tube in the Learning Center’s roof.
PHOTO: A young visitor examines the new indoor beehive in front of nature photographed in extreme close-up by artist Jo Hormuth.

A young visitor examines the new indoor beehive in front of nature photographed in extreme close-up by artist Jo Hormuth.

Now the last—and most important—piece of our dream is about to come true. I can’t wait to see the Learning Campus come alive with people—splashing, rolling, climbing, and finding their own inspiration—at the free Opening Celebration. I look forward to meeting you.

PHOTO: Yoga is in session at the new Learning Campus.

Yoga is in session at the new Learning Campus.

Come to the free Opening Celebration, September 10 and 11, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; parking fees apply. Enjoy live music and activities, take home a free plant, and more. Take 10 percent off classes when you sign up on-site on opening weekend (members get 30 percent off). Members are welcome to stop by the lounge for light refreshments and a commemorative gift.


©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

A small pink bicycle—with training wheels and pink ribbons—was parked outside the new Nature Preschool at the Chicago Botanic Garden. It was just a sign of things to come at the preschool, which opens September 6 at the new Regenstein Learning Campus, home to the Garden’s education programs.

PHOTO: Bike parking right outside the new Regenstein Learning Campus.

Parking right outside the new Regenstein Learning Campus

Learn more about the Nature Preschool at the Garden on our website.

Open houses for the 2017-18 school year will be held this fall. Meanwhile, we talked to some of this year’s students at the orientation for 4-year-olds about their future career plans and other matters.

PHOTO: Gemma plays in the outdoor mud kitchen.

Gemma plays in the outdoor mud kitchen.

Gemma

Q. What are you looking forward to doing in school?
A. I like studying and putting all the things into baskets and seeing if the temperature is hot or cold and climbing trees and playing outside and looking at the stream and measuring and weighing things and to paint and do art.

Q. What’s so interesting about plants?
A. I like to see if a little walnut will grow into a walnut tree.

Q. What do you want to be when you grow up?
A. An explorer.

PHOTO: Ethan works with homemade play dough.

Ethan works with homemade play dough.

Ethan

Q. What are you looking forward to doing in school?
A. I like playing on the big hills and the rocks and in the garden and cutting the putty and working in the mud kitchen and ABCs.

Q. What is your favorite plant?
A. Cactus. [Why?] Because it has pointy things.

Q. So you already know things about nature.
A. I know a blue jay eats worms. I know that the cactus keeps water so he doesn’t need much.

PHOTO: Harrison explores tools in the science corner.

Harrison explores tools in the science corner.

Harrison

Q. What do you think the Nature Preschool is going to be like?
A. Awesomeness.

Q. What do you want to be when you grow up?
A. A scientist.

PHOTO: Erin works in the math station.

Erin works in the math station.

Erin

Q. Why do you want to go to the Nature Preschool?
A. I want to learn about plants. I like digging in the dirt. At home, I pull weeds. Mom does, too. I want to climb a tree.

Q. What’s your favorite subject?
A. I like writing and animals.

PHOTO: Serena enjoys a snack.

Serena enjoys a snack.

Serena

Q. What do you want to do in preschool?
A. Go down the hills, play in the water and splash, read things.

Q. What’s your favorite subject?
A. Science.

Q. What do you want to be when you grow up?
A. When fishes and sharks get sick, I’ll fix them.

Q. What else will you do?
A. Just that.

PHOTO: Kids and families explore the Kleinman Family Cove.

Explore with us.

Come to the Regenstein Learning Campus’s free Opening Celebration, September 10 and 11, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; parking fees apply.

Enjoy live music and activities, take home a free plant, and more. Members can stop by the lounge for light refreshments and a commemorative gift.

©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Coming soon: Our 27th Garden

Renee T. —  August 30, 2016 — 2 Comments

Meet our new Nature Play Garden, a place of whimsy and self-discovery, for learning and fun. You will be able to dabble in the water (try the boulder bubbler) or daydream on the grassy rolling hills. Experience the new garden at the free Opening Celebration of the Regenstein Learning Campus at the Chicago Botanic Garden on September 10 and 11.

 

See the complete schedule for our Opening Celebration events on our website.

Horticulturists selected the garden’s flowers and trees for qualities such as color, scent, texture, and even sound (the sweet gums trees have seed pods that rattle); more than half of the perennials are new to the Chicago Botanic Garden.

“Adults will enjoy the fragrance of summer sweet and northern dropseed grass, smile at the large hibiscus flowers, be transfixed by the patterns of sunlight in the coursing water of the runnel, learn which plants do well in a swale to catch excess water runoff, and exclaim the usual ‘oh wow’ when the long sweep of redbuds flower in spring,” said Kris Jarantoski, executive vice president and director of the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The Nature Play Garden is part of the Regenstein Learning Campus, a new home base for the Chicago Botanic Garden’s plant-based, immersive nature experiences and classes. (Our last two new gardens, the Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden and Kleinman Family Cove, opened in 2012 as part of the initial phases of the Learning Campus.)

Here are a few of our favorite features in the new garden:

PHOTO: A little girls jumps on the rolling hills at the Nature Play Garden.

Jump, roll, run, relax on the rolling hills

The hills are alive…

The big, grassy rolling hills are yours for interpretation. Lie down and read a book. Take a power walk. Here’s how we roll; show us how you roll (tag us on Twitter or Instagram, @chicagobotanic).

PHOTO: A young visitor discovers the boulder bubbler at the Nature Play Garden.

A young visitor discovers the boulder bubbler.

Make a splash

Dip fingers and toes into the 2-inch-deep waters of the runnel. A boulder bubbler will allow people in wheelchairs to reach out and touch the cascading water at arm’s length.

PHOTO: The Nature Play Garden amphitheater and runnel.

The Nature Play Garden amphitheater and runnel

The can’t-miss view

“Probably most of all, people will marvel at the topography of the (natural) amphitheater,” Jarantoski said. “As one of our catering staff members said (and the catering staff doesn’t often comment on the gardens), ‘The landscape is so kinetic and exciting!’ Standing on top of one of the hills provides an exhilarating feeling as the landscape falls away from you to the lawn. You’ll never think of topography the same way again.”

PHOTO: The hollow tulip tree log in the Nature Play Garden.

Kids enjoy going around, over, and through the hollow log—all afternoon long.

Unwind

Jump off a boulder (wood chips on the ground make for a soft landing) or hide in a hollow tulip tree log (tulip trees, Liriodendron tulipifera, are also growing in the Nature Play Garden)—experts say it’s good for you to spend time outside.

Come one, come all

The garden was designed as a vibrant gathering place, for people of all ages and abilities. Check our website for evening programs that might call for stargazing or roasting marshmallows in the fire pit. Or pack a sack lunch and people watch in the picnic grove. Don’t feel like company? Duck into the hornbeam room or another sheltering thicket of trees.

Explore the Nature Play Garden at the Learning Campus’s free Opening Celebration, September 10 and 11, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; parking fees apply. Enjoy live music and Family Drop-in Activities, take home a free plant, and more. Members can stop by the lounge for light refreshments and a commemorative gift. While you’re here, make time to visit any of our 26 other distinct gardens and four natural areas.


©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Interested in a healthier, happier life? Try connecting with the natural world. A new, technologically advanced body of research shows that spending time in nature can provide protection against cancer, high blood pressure, depression, stress, and more.

Take a walk in nature to improve your mood and your health.

Take a walk in nature to improve your mood and your health.

Earlier this year, a National Geographic article noted that advances in neuroscience and psychology have provided scientists with more tools to look at the way nature affects our brains and bodies. According to the article, “These measurements—of everything from stress hormones to heart rate to brain waves to protein markers—indicate that when we spend time in green space, ‘there is something profound going on,’” said University of Utah cognitive psychologist David Strayer.

University of Illinois environment and behavior researcher Ming Kuo found that nature has the ability to enhance the functioning of the body’s immune system. “Nature doesn’t just have one or two active ingredients,” she told the university’s College News. “It’s more like a multivitamin that provides us with all sorts of the nutrients we need. That’s how nature can protect us from all these different kinds of diseases—cardiovascular, respiratory, mental health, musculoskeletal, etc.—simultaneously.”

Improve learning with time spent in the natural world.

Improve learning with time spent in the natural world.

Other studies show that nature is essential to the well-being of children. Children learn and focus better, and are healthier and more relaxed in green spaces, researchers say. In its national guidelines on encouraging nature play, the National Wildlife Federation says, “Nature play is defined as a learning process, engaging children in working together to develop physical skills, to exercise their imaginations, to stimulate poetic expression, to begin to understand the workings of the world around them.”

Come experience the Chicago Botanic Garden’s new Nature Play Garden, where visitors of all ages and abilities can roll down hills, splash in water, hide in logs, and more.

The Nature Play Garden is part of the new Regenstein Learning Campus. Come to the free Opening Celebration on September 10 and 11.


©2016 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org