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Childhood's Gate Children's Garden Open at Arboretum

by on July 09, 2014 2:15 PM

If only Fred Lewis Pattee could see what his iconic lyrics inspired.

The Childhood's Gate Children's Garden, which draws its name from a verse in Penn State's Alma Mater, written by Pattee, opened to the public at the Arboretum this week.

The garden was packed with children and parents exploring their new surroundings and enjoying the sunny day on Tuesday. Visitors are greeted at the entrance of the garden with giant cream-colored slabs and the words "Childhood's Gate." Guests then proceed to walk through an archway of orange and green tiles.

Surrounded by trees, flowers, bushes and green grass, visitors walk along the path outlining the garden. Each of the garden features, including a limestone cave, glass house and sand pits, was designed to facilitate learning and exploration.

State College resident Carrie Kennea says the garden gives her two sons, Oliver, 4, and Henry, 1, a chance to be outside in the sunshine.

Oliver says his favorite parts of the garden are playing with the water pump and exploring the cave.

"It's good to get the kids outside and exposed to plants from difference places," says Kennea who plans to bring her boys to the Childhood's Gates garden frequently this summer.

“The children’s garden really is a community resource,” says 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.”

The garden was specifically designed for kids between the ages of 3 and 12, although from the smiles on parents' and grandparents' faces, it is already enjoyed by all ages. Penn State designed the garden as a place for families to learn about and enjoy nature.

Linda Duerr, coordinator of children’s educational programs at the Arboretum, views 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 says. “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.”

Children can learn about the state's regional landscape through the garden, as native Pennsylvania plant species and artifacts related to the state's geologic history are included.

It proves to be an educational experience for 2-year-old Logan Lindquist.

State College resident Adrienne Lindquist brings her young son, Logan, to the garden. She says she's waited for it to open since the spring.

Lindquist says her son's favorite part of the garden is the cave and the water creek because he could "touch and feel," which is helping him learn.

"We loved looking at the Koi Pond but all we could do was look," Lindquist says "With the creek, Logan can feel the water."

The children’s garden is located within the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens at the corner of Park Avenue and Bigler Road. Admission and parking are free for the gardens, open daily from dawn until dusk.

For more information, visit the Arboretum at Penn State website.

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Jessica Tully recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in journalism and political science. She is a frequent contributor to and has also reported for USA TODAY, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Onward State and The Daily Collegian.
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