The Children's Discovery Trail
The Gardens’ new flagship project for children
Follow our construction progress here!!!!!!!!!!
Did you have a favorite childhood space: perhaps a tree house, a rock, or a den? Ask today’s Israeli children what they most enjoy doing, and, like their overseas counterparts, they will likely talk about digital screens.
Throughout the developed world, it’s becoming harder to get children into nature and to find natural spaces that are easily accessible and safe. And yet, as Richard Loev points out in his landmark “Last Child in the Woods,” we humans are still “genetically wired” to nature. Since time immemorial, the natural world has provided the playground and testing ground in which children have developed vital skills.
Today, too many children are suffering from what Loev labels “nature deficiency.” It is a double tragedy, of course, because children who are alienated from nature are unlikely to grow up as custodians of our environment. Botanical gardens in the USA seem to be facing this problem head on, leading the way in the creation of special children’s gardens.
The Jerusalem Botanical Gardens will be the first in Israel (and perhaps the Middle East) to follow suit.
The Gardens’ flagship Children’s Discovery Trail will provide that safe, accessible, yet magical natural world that is missing in the lives of too many urban children living in high-rise apartments. It will try to give three to 12-year-olds
that sense of wonder, the “transcendent experience,” that, according to nature educator, David Sobel, “is worth a thousand nature facts.”
Exploratory deck and pond: Part of the water station Copyright: The Jerusalem Botanical Gardens 2013
Why should it succeed? Because it starts from what children instinctively love doing when they find themselves among trees, bushes, stones, water, and all the other trappings of our remarkable natural world - looking for secret places; building dens; “hunting and gathering” (searching for and collecting things); creating miniature worlds; climbing; getting dirty; playing out fantasy adventures…
Miniature land - part of the Rocks and Soils station Copyright: The Jerusalem Botanical Gardens 2013
Using discovery and play, the new children’s garden will break the story of ecology down into constituent parts, to show the adaptation of plants to elements within their environment, and the interaction between the two. The underlying message? That plants underpin all life on earth.
Activity environments will be linked by a specially-designed path that incorporates trails and surprises. Highlights will include a canopy walk through the treetops, and a ‘down to the roots’ exhibit. The emphasis will be on sensory exploration and discovery, whether it’s touching different water plants from a new wooden deck, racing vessels down a boat-racing stream to learn how objects (and plants) float, or pausing to look at lichens and plants that crack rock, while scrambling up a boulder climb.