Botanical Garden

Children’s Garden, North Carolina Botanical Garden

NLI facilitated design programming for the Allen Education Center, including an emphasis on children and families.

Children’s ideas were generated via a design workshop at the local elementary school and a garden walkabout with families that helped curators understand the existing garden’s value as a place to explore and discover nature.

The iconic Storytellers’s Chair was one of several child-friendly additions.

Magic in the Garden became an annual family event – attracting new garden members.

The Children’s Wonder Garden was installed.

NLI’s Annual Design Institute benefited from social breaks on the building-length porch, and hands-on sessions in the gardens, adjacent woods and stream.

The Design Program described indoor and outdoor spaces, including what became a LEED Platinum building (opened 2006) adjacent to new gardens.

A series of staff and community design workshops involved children, parents, neighbors, educators, persons with special needs, staff, garden members, and child development professionals. Participation by diverse cultures resulted in a unique design program expressing many voices. In a special workshop, Glenwood Elementary School (nearby the garden) kindergarten to fifth grade children determined what they liked and disliked about the garden. Using these judgements, students prepared design concepts and diagrams to be considered in the master plan for the garden.

Toward a child-and-family-friendly garden

To help garden staff adjust to the needs of children and families, during the several years of fund raising and construction of the Education Center, a series of child-and family-friendly spots were created throughout the existing, mature garden, including the famous Storyteller’s Chair. As part of the 2002 Natural Learning Initiative Annual Design Institute, a special children’s event was jointly organized by NLI and the garden educational staff. Called “Discovering Magic in the Garden,” the event was so successful, it has been offered every year since on a Spring Saturday afternoon.

An evolving Children’s Garden Design

Several years have elapsed since the idea of creating a Children’s Garden was first considered; however, many creative steps forward have been made in the botanical garden as a whole, where the presence of children and families enthusiastically enjoying the plants has become commonplace. The open land around the Education Center has become a nature training site for the annual NLI Design Institute. The Children’s Garden Schematic Design, focused on settings for preschool children and their families is being revised to fit a site adjacent to the education wing of the Education Center.

Case Study

A case study was conducted as part of the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s Case Study Investigation program. Learn more here.

Garden Plan