Exploring the Gardens
From what happens to rocks over time, to how to plant seeds and make cuttings, to the meaning of propagation, the Friends’ Garden Explorations program encourages young people to dig into environmental science.
By Brooke McMinn
Each summer, Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens staff and volunteers work with 300-400 children from across the Magic City through Garden Explorations. Garden Explorations is a free program developed by the Friends for elementary children ages 6-12 enrolled in the City of Birmingham’s Park and Recreation Centers’ summer camps. Campers visit the Gardens for a full day of science, learning, and fun in one of Birmingham’s most beautiful settings.
The Garden Explorations program began in 1997 under the name of Zoo Gardens, which brought students to both the Birmingham Zoo and the Birmingham Botanical Gardens for lessons in environmental science. More than 7,500 children have visited the Gardens to learn about plant-related sciences through immersion in nature since the program’s inception. Garden Explorations introduces campers to the basics of horticulture, incorporates components of environmental education, and emphasizes the Gardens as a resource and respite for them. The program implements a distinct curriculum with fun and educational games, activities, and tours of the Gardens’ collections such as the Barber Alabama Woodlands, the Crape Myrtle Garden, and the Bruno Vegetable Garden.
The Garden Explorations curriculum includes hands-on activities related to soil formation and composition, plant propagation methods, and even container gardening. Campers get their hands dirty and play fun games as soil scientists as they learn about soil formation and composition. They become horticulturists creating their own herb containers. They are plant scientists propagating new plants by seeds, cuttings, and divisions. Through these interactive lessons, the Friends hopes to instill a lasting appreciation for the Gardens, for plants, and for the crucial role they play in our environment.