The latest addition to The Arboretum at Penn Stateopened to the public on Monday, July 7 -- the Childhood's Gate Children's Garden.
A garden for children and anyone who is young at heart, Childhood's Gate is a unique space for exploring nature, fostering wonder and celebrating the plants, animals and geography of central Pennsylvania.
Designed especially for visitors between the ages of 3 and 12, the garden will be a place for families from the State College community and surrounding region, Penn State alumni and other University Park visitors to learn about and enjoy the natural world. Every feature and structure is designed to facilitate learning and exploration.
“The children’s garden really is a community resource,” said Shari Edelson, director of horticulture and curator at the Arboretum. “The children of today are the decision makers of tomorrow in respect to environmental stewardship. A garden like this one can teach them to welcome nature into their own back yards and instill an awareness and a pride of place, a love for the region that we live in -- the history, the flora, the geography -- everything that makes Central Pennsylvania what it is.”
Linda Duerr, coordinator of children’s educational programs at the Arboretum, who has an early childhood education background of over 30 years, is looking forward to helping children discover the garden as an outdoor classroom.
“A lot of learning takes place indoors, through technology, and we often neglect the outdoors as a learning opportunity,” she said. “We should take advantage of it as often as we can. The children’s garden offers that opportunity to children -- it offers freedom to explore naturally, a place to wander and wonder.”
A team that included Penn State childhood development experts, design firm EDAW/AECOM, and the Arboretum leadership and staff, developed the garden as a microcosm of the state's regional landscape, featuring native Pennsylvania plant species and artifacts related to the state's geologic history.
The name "Childhood's Gate" was inspired by a line in Penn State's Alma Mater, which was written by Professor of American Education Fred Lewis Pattee in 1901:
When we stood at childhood's gate,
Shapeless in the hands of fate,
Thou didst mold us, dear old State,
Dear old State, dear old State.
The children’s garden is located within the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens at the corner of Park Avenue and Bigler Road on the University Park campus. The gardens are open daily from dawn until dusk and there is no charge for admission or parking.
Visitors are cautioned that workers may be making finishing touches during the first few days of operation. Several garden features will be added in the weeks to come.