Penn State Arboretum to feature Children's Garden

An artist's depiction of Mushroom Hollow, part of the planned Children's Garden at the Arboretum at Penn State. In this area of the garden, visitors will be able to observe insects, larvae and other contributors to the natural process of decay. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

HERSHEY, Pa. – Penn State’s Board of Trustees approved the construction of a Children’s Garden, the latest addition of The Arboretum at Penn State, at its meeting today (March 15) in Hershey, Pa. Created as an interactive site in which children can explore the natural world, the garden was part of the 2002 master plan for the Arboretum, which opened in 2009.

The $3.6 million dollar garden is being developed to help children and adults understand their connections to nature and the environment.  The garden has been made possible through two leadership gifts totaling $4.1 million, from Edward R. and Helen S. Hintz and Charles H. “Skip” Smith. This includes the creation of an endowment to maintain the garden and to develop educational programs. The programs, targeted for children ages 3 to 12, will focus on Pennsylvania’s geomorphology and its flora, fauna and culture. The design of the garden is evocative of the ridge-and-valley landscape of central Pennsylvania.

“The Children’s Garden will help foster an appreciation for nature through experiences that may spark a deep and lasting interest in plants and their environment,” said Kim Steiner, director of the Arboretum and professor of forest biology in the College of Agricultural Sciences. “This aspect of the Arboretum has been a priority from the very beginning, and we are truly thankful that Skip, Helen and Ed have made it come to life.”



He said the garden was the logical “next step” for the Arboretum because children’s gardens are a popular and contemporary notion.

“They are not always implemented well, though, because it’s hard to design a garden for casual play and experiential learning without falling back on familiar playground themes,” said Steiner. “For this project we hired one of the best children’s garden designer’s in the country, and we challenged him with an oversight panel of Penn State and community experts.”

The project, led by principal designer Emmanuel Didier, DidierDesignStudio, Fort Collins, Colo., includes an entry court near the Overlook Pavilion with a bio-filtration system for three pools and large glass panels casting colors over the threshold to the Garden.

A glass house in the shape of a garden cloche (bell), will be part of the design and will extend the seasonal use of the garden by offering a shelter for late fall, winter and early spring activities. The back section of the garden will include a Fossil Ridge, Mushroom Hollow and a limestone Grotto. The Grotto will demonstrate the local geological formations and the movement of water in the region. The Mushroom Hollow will feature a giant tree stump, large toadstool seats and giant caterpillar where children can gather for educational programs. The Fossil Ridge will introduce visitors to the ancient topography of central Pennsylvania.

“The result is going to be exceptional and unique to Penn State, a wondrous place for kids and a fascinating garden for adults,” Steiner added.

Last Updated March 15, 2013