GLENCOE, Ill. (Jan. 9, 2012) — The Chicago Botanic Garden will open the Grunsfeld Children's Growing Garden with a dedication ceremony at 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 2, 2012. Attendees will be encouraged to also attend World Environment Day at the Garden from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The dedication will include remarks followed by a ribbon cutting, tours of the garden and two activity stations for children. Staff will demonstrate how the garden will be used for a variety of programs that connect children with nature.
The Grunsfeld Children's Growing Garden will provide a dedicated place for active, hands-on planting programs. Children, parents, and teachers will grow food and ornamental plants, learn about native species, and reap the many health and developmental benefits of outdoor, nature-based activities. Camp CBG will be one of the first programs to utilize the garden for activities. Early childhood programs, scout programs, school field trips, teacher professional development programs, and the Science First and College First programs will also utilize the garden.
The 10,000-square-foot garden will be divided into two Outdoor Garden Classrooms where children will grow food and ornamental plants, learn about the native species of our region and enjoy gardening. Within these areas, students will find six ground-level beds, six raised beds, and another raised bed with several wheelchair accessible planting trays. These include plantings of agricultural crops that will change seasonally. A red horsechestnut tree will offer shade in summer, and seven traditional garden benches will provide places for caregivers to sit while children are engaged in activities. The garden will be surrounded by an open-weave fence covered with different varieties of climbing plants, creating a safe, enclosed space for children to roam freely in the garden. The garden incorporates three significant features: solar panels on the roof of the tool shed; a ground-mounted wind turbine, both of which will supply the garden's electrical needs; and rain barrels to collect rainwater, which will be used to water plants in the garden. Any rain that falls ultimately will go into the rain barrels and to underground pipes leading to rainwater harvesting tanks that are part of the garden, a very sophisticated and environmentally-sustainable irrigation system. A striking Living Wall of sedum will greet visitors at the entrance, providing a unique and attractive welcome to children and adults.
The Grunsfeld Children's Growing Garden is made possible through the generosity of Esther Grunsfeld Klatz and Ernest A. Grunsfeld III and the generous support of the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and the Guild of the Chicago Botanic Garden; and the support of Public Museum Capital Grants Program Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois State Museum; Lorraine Ipsen-Stotler, Barbara and Richard Metzler, Make It Better, the Colonel Stanley R. McNeil Foundation, and other donors.
The Learning Campus
The Grunsfeld Children's Growing Garden is part of the Learning Campus, which will eventually include the Kleinman Family Cove, the Lawn, and the Learning Center, which will replace the current H-shaped structure. In fall 2011, the Chicago Botanic Garden opened the Entry Drive and Robert R. McCormick Foundation Plaza to facilitate safe access to the area. The Learning Campus will become the headquarters for the Garden's adult education, youth and family programs, student field trips, teacher professional development and citizen science programs. The Learning Campus will help students from early childhood on make meaningful connections with nature, enjoy unequalled science-focused learning, and become well-informed stewards of our precious natural environment.
Early childhood programs such as Little Diggers and Story Time enable the Garden to reach the youngest audience with age-appropriate, nature-based activities. Camp CBG provides a large variety of weeklong experiences for youth aged 2 to 12. Scout programs support the interest of service organizations to learn about nature. School field trips teach students about the plant world and support state goals for learning. A large and growing menu of teacher professional development programs provides practical training and graduate credits for teachers of environmental and plant science. The Garden's science career programs for middle and high school students, Science First and College First, engage Chicago Public School students in science activities and introduce them to careers in the field. Some graduates of the career program go on to study science in college and are accepted to summer internships at the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center. The Chicago Botanic Garden's Master's and Ph.D. programs in Plant Biology and Conservation, offered in partnership with Northwestern University, extend our reach by establishing a unique career ladder for former College First students. This range of opportunity is not possible at any other botanic garden in the country. In addition, the new building will accommodate adult courses and certificate programs, with topics ranging from wellness and lifestyle classes to classes for professional gardeners.
Entry Drive and Robert R. McCormick Foundation Plaza
The Entry Drive and Plaza, opened in late summer 2011, provide a safe and direct drop-off location for the more than 600 school buses that bring student groups to the Garden every year. A pedestrian pathway along the west side of the road will connect the McCormick Foundation Plaza with the Campus, the parking lots, and the rest of the Garden. A small parking area in the Plaza includes handicap parking to accommodate the increased number of special-needs children who will be using the Campus when it is completed. 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.
Kleinman Family Cove
The Kleinman Family Cove is the third project of the Learning Campus and will be located on the Garden's North Lake. The Cove will serve as an ideal spot for children and adults to study the aquatic plants and animals that inhabit our wetland ecosystems and to learn about conserving fresh water systems, which are critical to our lives. This aquatic classroom will open in late 2012, weather and shoreline construction permitting.
Students will approach the Cove from a pathway that connects with the Learning Center. They will descend the slope to the water's edge where they will find a wooden boardwalk that enables them to walk over the water and view emergent aquatic plants at different depths, perform water tests, and sample the water for aquatic creatures. A protected Aquatic Wading Area will provide supervised groups a safe place for more lake investigations. Nearby, a small, shaded amphitheater with stadium seating will provide a place for groups to sit, enjoy the landscape, and learn about aquatic habitats. Funding for the Cove is provided by the Annette and Bernard Kleinman family.
The Learning Center
Plans are being finalized for the new 27,000-square-foot Learning Center, which will serve as a program center for both casual visitors and students of all ages to learn about plants, the environment, and sustainable practices, and to appreciate the critical role plants play in our lives. Designed by Booth Hansen with input from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) of Boulder, Colorado, and the Chicago Botanic Garden, the building is expected to achieve the highest (platinum) LEED rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. The new building will replace the current H-shaped structure constructed of modular buildings, containing four classrooms, public restrooms, an outdoor, tented deck, and office space for staff.
The Learning Center will be both a center for learning and a teaching tool in itself as an example of Earth-friendly design. All classrooms will be lit by natural light and have natural ventilation, monitored by an efficient temperature control system. Ingeniously designed walls and a green roof will insulate the building and lower energy needs when the external temperatures are extreme. Solar panels will produce enough electricity to meet much of the building's demands, and rainwater collected from the roof will be used to water the surrounding gardens. The saw-tooth roofline will set a striking profile against the background of trees. Lush plantings will create a lively and inviting space that appeals to a child's sense of wonder.
Inside, each of the eight classrooms will open to an outdoor garden, an instant connection to the outdoor world students are studying. Two of the eight classrooms are designed for early childhood programs, with smaller furniture and story time rugs. An additional certified kitchen classroom will allow students of all ages to create healthy and flavorful meals using fruits, vegetables, and herbs grown in the nearby Grunsfeld Children's Growing Garden. The Learning Center will also feature two greenhouses where students can discover a diversity of plants in all seasons. A light-filled atrium will house exhibits to inspire visitors with examples of the importance of plants in our lives. The entire building will incorporate universal design principles, ensuring accessibility to students of all abilities.
Integrated teaching tools such as Wi-Fi, active use of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, and smart boards (that capture and create written documents from "white board" jottings) will support lessons about the living world. Office space for staff is on the second floor, while storage is strategically located throughout the building. A basement will provide shelter in case of severe storms.
Admission to the Chicago Botanic Garden is free. Select event fees apply. Parking is per car; free for Garden members. For information about Garden programs and events, call (847) 835-5440, or visit www.chicagobotanic.org.