Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Along Came a Garden

The kids who come to Fairyland are an inquisitive bunch, and we love their questions. We hear one of those questions nearly every day: Where has Miss Muffet gone?

In fact, the nursery-rhyme character has been away from our garden for a while. When kids ask her about Muffet, our horticulturist Jackie Salas explains that “she’s at the spa, being rejuvenated.”

Jackie is extremely happy that soon she’ll return to talking about plants instead of about Muffet, whose spider currently sits all by itself in our garden. Because not only is Muffet returning – newly rebuilt and repainted – but our tiny plot of green is being transformed into a lovely Learning Garden.

Our new Learning Garden has eye-level raised beds.

Miss Muffet’s garden was originally installed in 1953; in 2008 it was turned into an organic garden whose plantings changed with the seasons and where kids without yards of their own could explore and play in the dirt. That won’t change, but when our transformation is complete, the garden will also become a hands-on plant-science classroom, something we’ve never had before. We like to think that it will be the first place many young kids will get excited about science – through plants.

Funded in large part by The Joseph and Vera Long Foundation, the new Learning Garden will be the home base for our Science Alive! Program for first-graders, for horticulture therapy for autistic kids, for Jackie’s Beanstalk field-trip program, and for summer-camp horticulture workshops.

In addition to restoring Miss Muffet, we have installed raised planting beds, including some that are wheelchair accessible. Beautiful redwood benches, milled at Fairyland by volunteer arborists in 2014, will accommodate a single “classroom” of young learners, and a whiteboard will allow for visuals to accompany the lessons. Whimsical murals that feature fruits and vegetables in unusual ways will be “super engaging,” Jackie promises. We’re keeping an open space where kids can work on projects like seed cookies.
Miss Muffet will return to Fairyland along with a new Learning Garden that celebrates science and nature, and has hand-milled redwood benches for comfortable seating. Photo: Jackie Salas.

Science is often under-taught in elementary schools, where teachers are under pressure to focus on reading and math. But we know that many children are naturally drawn to science if they’re given the opportunity to learn about it in a stimulating environment like our Learning Garden. The importance of science to society, to the workplace, and to well-rounded minds cannot be overstated.

We’re very excited that when our Learning Garden is complete, kids of all abilities will be able to share our love of nature.

And yes, it will be nice to have Miss Muffet home again. Because a tuffet is a terrible thing to waste.

-- C.J. Hirschfield

C.J. Hirschfield has served for 14 years as executive director of Children’s Fairyland, where she is charged with the overall operation of the nation’s first storybook theme park.

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