Not long ago I read a Chinese proverb: Learning is like traveling upstream; not to advance is to drop back. Adapting to changes—be they good, bad, or unforeseen—requires us to engage constantly in new ideas and solutions.
The proverb is especially apt as we consider the children the Chicago Botanic Garden serves today, and will serve tomorrow, as we realize our new ten-year "Keep Growing" strategic plan. Each child embodies the hopes and dreams for the future, and each child must keep growing or fall behind.
By the end of 2010, the three divisions of the Garden's Center for Teaching and Learning will have provided educational programming to more than 100,000 children and adults. The Youth & Family Programs division offers children ages 2 to 15 and their families an extensive variety of professionally designed programs that aim to expand their understanding and appreciation of nature. The Teachers and Students division offers a year-round schedule of environmental education programs for teachers seeking to refresh their knowledge, and science-enrichment programs for high-school and college-age students. Horticultural Therapy, the third division, serves the health and wellness needs of people of all abilities from birth through death.
One of many important long-term goals for the Garden is to ensure our young students and others continue receiving the highest caliber of age-appropriate instruction on subjects related to plants, healthy ecosystems, and food production. This commitment—to our children and to our future—is why planning is underway to build a children’s learning campus.
An exciting first step toward a future campus is building the Grunsfeld Growing Garden. Scheduled to open in 2011, this enclosed 10,000-square-foot garden will be accessible to all users, and will feature fruit trees and raised beds where children will be able to grow vegetables and flowers using sustainable practices that promote health and well being. Families will be able to garden together, and a sheltered classroom and covered pavilion will facilitate learning about the plant cycle from seed to harvest.
Construction of the growing garden and a new, beautifully landscaped entry drive that will better accommodate school buses will begin soon in parking lot 7 (that big gravel lot to your right as you pass through the Gatehouse). In 2011, we will complete schematic planning for the rest of the campus: an Aquatic Discovery Cove; a Children's Sensory Garden; and a permanent building to replace the current temporary trailer structures. I will keep members of the President’s Circle informed of our progress and of future behind-the-scenes opportunities.
In the meantime, I am deeply indebted to everyone who is making the children’s learning campus and growing garden possible. I wish to give special thanks to President’s Circle members Esther Grunsfeld Klatz and Tony Grunsfeld and to Tony’s wife, Allie Kurland; to the McCormick Foundation; to the Guild of the Chicago Botanic Garden; to Make It Better magazine; and to many important anonymous donors. Your generosity not only helps the Chicago Botanic Garden and the children we serve to keep growing, it advances the future for us all.