Science Education for Texas Kids
Children’s Adventure Garden Opens at Dallas Arboretum
After nearly two decades of planning, research, fundraising, construction and planting, the Dallas Arboretum opens the gates on Sept. 21 to its amazing $62 million Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden. The trail-blazing effort promises to establish a new standard for children’s outdoor education worldwide.
The 8-acre garden features 17 indoor and outdoor galleries: a discovery trail with switchbacks, a cave for exploring earth cycles, a maze leading to a secret garden, an elevated skywalk for discovering what lives in the treetops, to name just a few. Planners concentrated on the areas in the prekindergarten to middle school curriculum standards that can best be taught outdoors — concepts like photosynthesis, pollination, the solar system, erosion and energy.
Dallas Arboretum Board Chairman Brian Shivers said, “The Dallas Arboretum is widely recognized as one of the leading botanic gardens in the world with nearly a million visitors annually, but few realize that it is also a premier educational facility that teaches life and earth science to more than 100,000 children every year.” The new garden takes the Arboretum’s already significant education efforts to a whole new level.
Administrators explain that the Children’s Garden aims to revolutionize the landscape of interactive learning through a unique blend of innovative technology, interactive exhibits and natural elements. Features include native Texas wetlands, a Honey I Shrunk the Kids-inspired world, and a 9,100-square-foot Exploration Center equipped with the OmniGlobe. One of only 50 in the world, the OmniGlobe allows interactive animations to demonstrate real-time weather with an 8-second delay, ecosystems, climate-related images, atmospheric changes and the solar system.
As the educational plan was developed, it was examined for accuracy by teams of science teachers and a Scientific Advisory Committee, chaired by Dr. Johann Deisenhofer, holder of the Nobel Prize in chemistry for his contribution to the understanding of photosynthesis. Southern Methodist University’s Annette Simmons Graduate School of Education, led by Dr. David Chard, dean of the school, also advised on the academic design, and is evaluating and researching the effectiveness of the garden on children’s learning of science.
The Children’s Adventure Garden was made possible by the generous support of the City of Dallas and private and corporate donors. The lead gift was provided by Howard Meyers and his sons in honor of his wife and their mother, Rory Meyers, who is a longtime Dallas Arboretum board member and Education Committee chair.
Arboretum president and CEO Mary Brinegar and education vice president Maria Conroy have carried the dream forward since its inception. Former U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison has been the honorary chair of the effort.
The children’s garden was designed by a team comprised of Dattner Architects as building architect, MKW + Associates as landscape architect, and Van Sickle & Rolleri Ltd. as exhibit designer. Construction began in 2011.