A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to attend a preview of the new Regenstein Learning Campus at the Chicago Botanic Garden. It was a spectacular day at the garden filled with the flowers and foliage of summer.
After spending the morning ogling buds, blooms, and bark, I headed over to the seven-acre Regenstein Learning Campus.
Seventy redbuds have been planted around the campus. Imagine the scene next spring when their leafless branches are lined with showy pink flowering jewels.
Eileen Prendergast, Director of Education, took a group of garden writers on a tour of the Nature Play Garden. “The best part of the garden is watching kids using the space,” Eileen shared.
The rolling hills call out for kids to run, roll, or somersault up and down each and every one of them.
It will only take a couple of years for the willows to completely cover the structure in the willow grove, providing secluded tunnels to run through and a circular inner room for all kinds of imaginative play.
Jump from stump to stump on your way to huge tulip poplar trees that have been hollowed out so kids of all ages can crawl through or climb on top.
Yup, that’s Mike Nowak, author, environmentalist, and radio host, joining in the fun.
The hornbeam room is a lovely space to sit and enjoy the sound of rustling leaves as breezes move through them.
Who doesn’t like to play in water? Take off your shoes and walk in the runnel or splash in the fountain.
Back inside the Learning Center, we visited the space where three and four-year-old children will attend preschool. The curriculum is nature and play-based – about 50% of their school day will be spent outside.
The building is filled with classrooms for programs of all kinds and for all ages. Drew Wehrle, Coordinator of School Field Trips, demonstrated the super cool ‘magic’ board – one in each classroom – that supplements hands-on instruction. These computers + televisions + chalkboards will impress even the techiest techies.
In the kitchen classroom, kids and adults sharpen their culinary skills.
Children learn how flowers grow in the Grunsfeld Children’s Growing Garden and about frogs and other aquatic plants and animals at the Kleinman Family Cove.
The Opening Celebration of the Regenstein Learning Campus is this Saturday & Sunday, September 10 & 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 pm. Take your kids, grandkids or yourself and check out this exciting new addition to the Chicago Botanic Garden. The staff is very excited to share it with you. Their pride is obvious and well-deserved.