Posted Wednesday, Sep. 04, 2013
Designed to be “a museum without walls,” the 8-acre Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden, opening Sept. 21 at the Dallas Arboretum, is part science lab, part family attraction that provides fun and imaginative ways to investigate and experience nature and all its interconnected relationships.
From little sprouts to the fully grown-up, kids of all ages can discover how the earth moves during an earthquake; play a CSI-like game to find out whose unwelcome egg is in the phoebe’s nest; and take pond dippings to determine the health of a wetland. And it’s all in a colorful garden setting high above White Rock Lake.
When designing this $62 million garden — a project that has been in the works 17 years and took two years to build — arboretum officials specifically set out to address state and national education standards in life, earth and environmental science. As a result, teachers and students can fully engage in formal and informal academic programs at labs scattered throughout the garden’s 17 galleries.
Each gallery has been designed around a key science principle in the preschool through middle school curricula. However, unless you can define the Fibonacci Sequence or explain Archimedes’ screw, there’s something to be learned at every age.
Because this is the Dallas Arboretum, the children’s garden also presents seasonal color created by annuals and Texas native plants — 1,200 newly planted trees, as well as butterfly, living roof and edible gardens. Water features abound; a favorite is sure to be the squirting, dancing water in the entry pavilion. A glass waterfall and misters aim to reduce the sweltering on hot days.
With more than 150 exhibits, the new Dallas attraction — an easy drive down Interstate 30 from Fort Worth — is sure to inspire repeat visits. As Mary Brinegar, president and CEO of the Dallas Arboretum, concluded on a recent morning visit, even the jaded 9-year-old boy will want to come back.
Here are 10 quests
for first-time explorers:
1 The garden’s icon and a “must see” is the 5-foot OmniGlobe inside the Exploration Center. One of only 50 in the world, the OmniGlobe projects images from within to depict Earth’s forces and conditions. You have an astronaut’s view as you observe population density, deforestation, ecosystems, real-time global weather from NASA, plate tectonics, air-traffic routes, atmospheric data, hurricanes, constellations and more. There’s even a Facebook map that illustrates the global reach of this cultural phenomenon. If you tire of Earth, you can explore one of the other planets or the moon.
2 Designed to introduce toddlers to their world, First Adventure nonetheless charms grown-ups. Kids can sit on wooden mushrooms and watch water fountains mimic the mushroom shape. They can rub their hands over a giant, anatomically correct ant, or run through a caterpillar maze. Little ones can discover the connection between acorns on the ground and the oak trees they’re under, all safely within an enclosed space.
3 Tucked inside the gargantuan eagle’s nest, made of woven twigs and branches, kiddos can listen to a docent read a story or learn that birds aren’t the only animals that hatch from eggs.
4The Texas Skywalk is a 240-foot elevated walk through the treetops. Sky-walkers can peer into the canopy to see which animals and insects live up there, and peek into nests; then they can compare leaves of different trees. Be sure to take in the scenic view of White Rock Lake and the lovely mansions on the other side.
5The skywalk leads to Walk In The Clouds, where a hollowed-out tree trunk demonstrates that even when dead, a tree still has purpose. Rigged around the tree are heavy rope nets, where fearless youngsters and adults alike can scamper like squirrels or glide like birds.
6Pure Energy Islands provide thrills while teaching about harnessing the power of sun, wind and water to generate electricity. Children can shoot a powerful water cannon to make discs spin and water spurt in jets. They can turn a propeller and understand how it propels Grandpa’s boat forward, and then be humbled when they learn how the ancients moved water uphill.
7Solar Energy Island is just as engaging. Families can compete to see who can best manipulate a solar panel to collect enough sunlight to activate a battery.
8 In Texas Native Wetlands, kids young and old can hide within the secluded wildlife blind and use high-powered scopes to identify the birds on White Rock Lake. Listen to recordings of local birdsong and determine which birds are singing as you walk on the wild side.
9 In Plants Are Alive, kiddos learn that plants are made of parts and that the parts work together to ensure the plant’s survival. Then, they can assemble their own lily or hibiscus with oversized parts and compare it to the real thing growing right there in the gallery.
10 Nearby, visitors gaze through a 6-foot kaleidoscope to experience patterns, shapes and structures and begin to appreciate the connection between science, math, architecture and art.
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