The Chicago Botanic Garden will get a little help this summer with planting, although some of the new gardeners may look a little small. On June 2, the new Grunsfeld Children's Growing Garden will kick off a summer of interactive programs.
The Botanic Garden has always offered children the opportunity to plant, but in the past, it's always been in a pot the child then took home, says Eileen Prendergast, Youth and Family Program director. This is the first dedicated space where children can plant and later come back to see how their contribution to the garden is growing.
The 10,000-square-foot children's garden will be used for drop-in and family programs, as well as summer camps. A number of the growing beds are raised to accommodate wheelchairs for children with disabilities. Classes for children as young as 2 will give them the chance to plant and harvest. The area is enclosed so children can roam safely.
"Our philosophy is you're never too young to appreciate gardening and appreciate nature," Prendergast says. "It's difficult to explain to a 4-year-old about pollution and global warming, but if you can get them to love a plant or being outside, that will stay with them."
The growing garden will offer drop-in activities 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekends.
The Botanic Garden is also working on another area that will appeal to children-The Cove. This pond will have a protected wading area where kids can put on waders and check out aquatic life up-close. The Cove is expected to open in the fall. A new Learning Center with indoor classrooms also is in the works.
Entry to the Botanic Garden is free, although it is $20 to park. For more information, visit chicagobotanic.org.
Liz DeCarlo is the senior editor at Chicago Parent.
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