The State Botanical Garden at the University of Georgia has developed both a vision and a mission for the new Children’s Garden. The vision, conceptualised by MKW + ASSOCIATES with VS&R Ltd responsible for exhibition design, is to create a natural world of discovery and joy. The team's mission is to inspire wonder, love and stewardship of nature through creative learning, adventure and play for children of all ages.
The three guiding principles that have been followed throughout the design process are:
-Nature as Teacher
-Connecting with Nature through arts, science and literacy education
-Healthy Foods, Healthy Body, Healthy Communities, Healthy Earth
The new Children’s Garden at the State Botanical Garden replaces the existing parking area and service drives with a unique new outdoor learning centre for children, families and all visitors.
The newly transformed 2-acre space will include a welcoming arrival area; a new entry plaza with a sculptural and whimsical gateway; a generous new amphitheatre and orientation space focused on a colourfully paved map of Georgia and an interactive serpentine Georgia Discovery Wall; a new picnic and gathering space leading to the Shade Garden Entry; and the preserved tree-shaded earth berm that gently encloses the new Children’s Garden Proper.
The Children’s Garden includes the following outdoor rooms or galleries:
The Water Zone - the new pond and island pavilion provide an arresting visual first experience for visitors, while at the same time inviting them to use the playful ferry, the stepping stones, the whimsical spray jets, the waterfalls and the quieter contemplative bog area.
The Underground uses the existing berm’s topography to 'peel up' a slice of the earth and invites visitors into the world of the underground. Interactive exhibits explore soils, roots, insects and creatures that inhabit this rarely visited zone.
Wonder is a colourful garden area, intensely programmed for young visitors to enjoy and learn. The Puppet Theatre, Busy Bees, Sweet Peas and Dig & Grow provide fun and informative play and activities to expose youngsters to the beauty and wonder of nature.
The Canopy Walk extends the visitors’ experience into the existing forested ravine. It invites all ages to 'climb' into the tree tops once again by means of a gently ramped series of decks and bridges. Visitors will find themselves in the canopies of these great oaks, maples and hickories raised high above the forest floor, and learning about the lives of trees from a bird’s eye perspective.
The Theater-in-the-Woods is a naturally formed, wooded amphitheatre whose rustic seating and woodland stage will provide visitors with a wide array of concerts, demonstrations, celebrations and theatre events in a beautiful natural setting.
The Forest Play area brings Children’s Garden visitors to a natural clearing in the woods and introduces them to fallen trees and nets for climbing, building and creating with natural materials, a stumpery for storytelling, and a real tree house high in the canopy, but accessible to all.
The new Accessible Walkway winds its way down from the upper parking lot through the shady wooded slope and provides a new entryway to the Children’s Garden and Visitor’s Center that is accessible for all users. A new pergola announces this entry area to all visitors.
The Grow Zone provides a sunny level garden area where children, families, and school groups can learn about planting crops and vegetables, and can return time and again to monitor their garden plots.