How the Children’s Garden Came to Be
There’s no place quite like the Rory Meyers Children‘s Adventure Garden. In just one year, it has become one of the Arboretum’s crowd favorites. As we celebrate all that the garden is today, we want to share our inspiration for the garden and how it came to fruition.
We had been thinking about adding a children‘s garden to the Arboretum long before the plans became a reality. The Arboretum’s board of directors formed a committee to study children’s gardens from all over the country to determine if we should consider building one on our undeveloped property. Our investigation included children‘s gardens, zoos, museums and aquariums, and Arboretum representatives personally visited many of them.
The committee was unanimous in its opinion that the Arboretum should build a children’s garden, but we didn’t see one we thought was a fit for us. After more research, we settled on two goals for our garden: First, to build a garden focused on the national and state education standards for life and earth sciences to underscore classroom efforts to teach how the Earth works. Second, we wanted to foster a love for life and earth sciences and a connection to nature in local children who live in highly urban environments with constant access to technology.
The most challenging aspect of building the Children‘s Garden was developing an almost all-outdoor, 8-acre science museum that teaches science concepts the way research has shown that children learn best—through interactive learning. This involved creating exhibits that teach science concepts in a compelling way but could withstand the extremes of Dallas weather. We also wanted our educational content to accommodate different learning styles and connect to real life.
One of our goals was to create a beautiful space that would wow young visitors with the beauty of nature. The garden boasts more than 150 interactive exhibits, which demand careful maintenance. Additionally, the garden has more than 100 computers loaded with multi-level games. There is so much to do and see that the garden can’t be “done” in a day.
We had a fantastic design team that helped us find ways to optimize the natural features of the site, including the nearly 40-foot elevation drop on the property. That slope provided the opportunity to build the Texas Sky Walk, which allows children to explore treetops and the creatures that live there up close.
We love the First Adventure Area, which features a natural play area for toddlers. It is a magical place with towering live oak trees, a beautiful view of the lake, a potting shed, a tree house and even a plant “petting zoo.”
Another favorite spot is the Texas Native Wetlands. It is a full acre of wetlands with an island where children can perform aquatic studies and explore a trail beneath towering trees. The wetlands also have a watering hole where children can use animal tracks to see who visited the pond the night before. It’s an immersive habitat where they can learn firsthand about the adaptations of the plants and animals that live there.
You can’t miss our Pure Energy exhibit, which includes three “floating islands.” Each island is dedicated to an alternative energy source that can be transformed into electricity: wind, water and sun. The islands act as a getaway, with several interactive exhibits to make learning about energy science fun.
As you can see, our Children‘s Garden did not come to life overnight. Our design team worked with us to develop the gardenover many years. Not only were they responsive to our requests, they believed in our desire to make the Children’s Garden the best in the world, and one that fits the needs and personality of our city.
Inspiration for the Children‘s Garden came from Arboretum staff, board members and our president. We underwent reviews with board committees, a curriculum advisory committee and a scientific advisory committee, so we had a lot of expertise involved in the process.
We want to give a special thanks to all who were involved in the Children’s Garden Gala, held this past weekend in celebration of the garden’s one year anniversary. Among those are Co-chairs Bettina and Dan Hennessy, Honorary Chair, Cecile Bonte, whose multi-year leadership as capital campaign chair helped raise the money to build the garden, and Guest of Honor, The Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison, who previously served as the Honorary Chair of the capital campaign to build the garden.
In addition, we’d like to honor the top donors to the Children’s Garden, including Rory and Howard Meyers who represent the lead gift, Harold Simmons Foundation represented by Lisa Simmons, Diane and Hal Brierley and Francie Moody-Dahlberg of the Moody Foundation.