New Study Finds Arboretum Children's Garden Provides High Value Play, LearningNature’s Classroom Teaches Invaluable Lessons
LISLE, IL (August 28, 2008) – Lucas Romano is not yet three, but he’s excited to see frogs in The Morton Arboretum Children’s Garden.
“We came here earlier this year and saw tadpoles,” says his mother, Stephanie, of Lombard. “Now, we see the frogs. He knows now that tadpoles turn into frogs,” she said.
Lucas and other children in the Garden are strong examples of how children learn when they explore trees and nature through play and other hands-on activities. A new study shows that parents conclude the Arboretum’s exhibit-rich Children’s Garden provides this kind of learning: fun, enriching outdoor experiences. The study also found that parents view the Children’s Garden as a unique Chicago destination.
Now, as kids get back into school, parents should not forget that their children continue to need outdoor activity in nature for their well-being.
“It needs to be part of their whole year, not just summer,” says Katherine Johnson, Arboretum Children’s Garden Manager.
According to the study, 98 percent of parents say they are satisfied or very satisfied with the Children’s Garden, 97 percent of parents say the Children’s Garden combines physical activity with learning opportunities, and 97 percent also say the Children’s Garden is where they can spend time as a family.
“It’s fun for adults and kids alike,” says Jessica Fragner of Chicago, making her first visit to the Children’s Garden.
Adds Melissa Botnick of Oswego: “We have no nature in our immediate area. I bring my kids here to smell the smells and hear the noises (of nature) and get dirty. And they get to make new friends.”
The study, by Garibay Group of Chicago, assessed the overall nature and quality of the Children’s Garden’s visitor experience from May, 2007 to January, 2008. Researchers carried out 1,123 online visitor surveys, surveyed 333 adults as they exited the garden, interviewed hundreds of parents and children, and observed visitors’ behaviors to see how they interacted with the numerous trees, other plants, and exhibits.
The Children’s Garden is a four-acre wonderland containing 10 gardens in one. As the largest, most interactive garden of its kind in the country, the Children’s Garden is unique because it centers the experience on trees, and immerses kids in an inviting wonderland, sparking curiosity and imagination about trees and nature.
Research shows that positive early experiences in nature foster a lifelong appreciation and respect for living things. Introducing children to the wonders of trees and nature leaves them more inclined to make decisions that protect the environment as adults.
Children do not gain this appreciation--or learn--as grown-ups do. Adults engage in fact-based learning for practical application. But the Children’s Garden provides unstructured and semi-structured play--perfect for “kid learning” achieved through observation, exploration, and experience. Parents and grandparents recalling their own childhood experiences among trees and nature can become their kids’ principal teachers in the Children’s Garden, interpreting the many sights and sounds. And this time of year, there’s a lot to experience.
“Trees put on a dramatic color show and provide an abundance of seeds that bring out squirrels, chipmunks and other animals. A greater variety of birds migrate through the area, as do butterflies,” Johnson says.
Youngsters, like seven-year-old Eryk Markiewicz of Chicago, also learn cooperation and team-building in their outdoor experience.
“I went to build a dam in the water,” Eryk says of his playtime in the Children’s Garden Secret Stream. “I built it with friends. I was the ‘big rock’ collector.”
Outdoor play also enables youngsters to develop all five senses fully, something not likely with a video game.
Ninety-nine percent of those surveyed say they are likely to make a return visit, and 100 percent say they would recommend the Children’s Garden to someone else.
“I love this place,” Botnick says.
The Morton Arboretum gratefully acknowledges the Trustee's Philanthropy Fund of the Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund, whose $90,000 gift made possible the Children’s Garden study, and recommendations to further engage children and their families in the interactive, hands on exploration of trees and nature.
The Morton Arboretum is an internationally recognized 1,700-acre outdoor museum with collections of 4,117 kinds of trees, shrubs, and other plants from around the world. The Arboretum's beautiful natural landscapes, gardens, research and education programs, and year-round family activities support its mission – the planting and conservation of trees and other plants for a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world. Conveniently located at I-88 and Rte. 53 in Lisle, Illinois, the Arboretum is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central Time or sunset, whichever is earlier. The Children's Garden is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., March through October, and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., November through February. Visit www.mortonarb.org or call 630-968-0074 to learn more.