The Regenstein Foundation Learning Campus

PHOTO: the Learning Campus

Taking shape on the north end of the Chicago Botanic Garden is a place of environmental learning unlike any other. When completed in 2016, the seven-acre Regenstein Foundation Learning Campus will be a center of inspiration, education, and training for nature-lovers and the next generation of plant scientists, educators, and land stewards. Already a leading U.S. public garden in the field of education, the Garden is poised to expand its role in teaching and developing innovative concepts in plant-based science education. 

The Regenstein Foundation Learning Campus is part of “Keep Growing,” a ten-year strategic plan launched in early 2010 that guides the Garden’s work. The plan includes a $125 million capital and endowment initiative. Also part of the strategic plan is the Kris Jarantoski Campus, a new plant production facility and garden just starting to take shape on the Garden’s south end.


The Education Center—a curving, architecturally distinctive building—will be at the heart of the seven-acre Campus. Designed by Booth Hansen, the prominent architectural firm whose work won national awards for the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center, the curving, architecturally distinctive Education Center will serve a broad spectrum of learners. Within its eight classrooms, nature laboratory, and ITW Kitchen Classroom, the 26,700-square-foot Center will serve a broad spectrum of learners. The Garden’s plant-based educational programs will begin with early childhood and preK programs that engage very young children (alongside their parents and caregivers), followed by elementary, middle-school, and high-school options that help students prepare for college. 

PHOTO: the Education Center

The Education Center will also house the Joseph Regenstein, Jr. School of the Chicago Botanic Garden, enhancing its ability to serve its many adult students. A typical day might begin with adult wellness and lifestyle classes in the early morning, followed by early childhood and Camp CBG or school field trip programs throughout the morning and early afternoon, visits by participants in Science First and College First (part of the Science Career Continuum), and Scout badge programs and adult cooking classes in the evening.

Such an education continuum—from preK through Ph.D. and beyond—is rare in the museum world.

Engineered to achieve high standards of energy efficiency and certification by the U.S. Green Building Council, the Center will be efficiently ventilated, cooled, and heated, and will include recycled materials, a rainwater capture and storage system, and solar panels to generate energy. With the Astellas Atrium providing both an entrance and a venue for interpretive plant science displays, an observational beehive introducing visitors to the pollinator story, and peek-through windows showing the internal mechanics of the building’s sustainability features, the Center will create a welcoming new visitor attraction.

THE Education Center GARDEN

Based on a concept vision by renowned landscape architect Mikyoung Kim, the Education Center Garden will be a vibrant central place for children to explore. Features include a series of multisensory gardens and a shallow stream. A great lawn of wave-like knolls will slope into an amphitheater, and wide, tree-shaded paths will include special areas for hiding, learning, and gathering. The garden will be designed and built by Jacobs/Ryan Associates. 

PHOTO: Grunsfeld Children's Growing Garden

Kleinman Family Cove

Other Campus Components

Another important component of the Campus is the Grunsfeld Children's Growing Garden, a place for children to water, weed, and harvest plants, guided by expert instructors. The Children's Growing Garden opened in 2012. Here, garden beds are raised so little arms can reach the soil, and wheelchair-accessible trays in the raised beds allow students of all abilities to participate in activities. While the growing plants in the raised beds are watered and weeded, the demonstration beds (maintained by horticulturists) show young participants what their plants eventually will look like.

Along 800 feet of restored shoreline gardens, the Kleinman Family Cove highlights another part of the natural world: water. The Cove, which also opened in 2012, includes a canopied outdoor amphitheater that overlooks a small bay. It's a place for visitors to learn about aquatic plants and animals, along with the importance of freshwater systems.

Every part of the Campus is designed to be inviting, including the Robert R. McCormick Foundation Plaza and entry drive, which will be lined with flowering trees to attract pollinators and welcome the next generation of plant lovers and plant scientists—the environmental stewards on whom our planet depends.

The Learning Campus

Read about the Grunsfeld Children's Growing Garden, the Kleinman Family Cove, and the Education Center.

Funding for the entry drive and plaza was provided by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, and Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

The Grunsfeld Children's Growing Garden is made possible through the generosity of Esther Grunsfeld Klatz and Ernest A. Grunsfeld III; the Robert R. McCormick Foundation; Woman's Board of the Chicago Horticultural Society, the Guild of the Chicago Botanic Garden; and the support of the Public Museum Capital Grants Program, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois State Museum; Lorraine Ipsen-Stotler; Barbara and Richard Metzler; the Colonel Stanley R. McNeil Foundation; and Make It Better Magazine.

The Kleinman Family Cove was made possible by the generous support of the Kleinman Family.

The Education Center is supported by a $750,000 grant in matched funds from the Public Museum Capital Grants Program, Illinois Department of Nature Resources, Illinois State Museum; and the generous support of the Grainger Foundation, Astellas USA Foundation, ITW, the Collins Family Foundation, Arthur D. Collins, Jr., an anonymous donor, and many other contributors.