Botanical gardens are sort of like zoos for plants. We visited the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, a small but wonderful garden linked to Lake Fayetteville by an equally wonderful five mile bike and walking trail.
You may have a local botanical garden or a park with gardens worth visiting. If so, a field trip can truly enliven your study of plants.
Start by searching online, and see if you can find a list of the plants growing in the garden you’re planning to visit.
Doing a little plant study before you go can make a big difference to the experience. Looking at a bunch of undifferentiated greenery is a very different experience from picking out flowers or trees you’ve learned about.
When you visit a public garden, you can always just enjoy seeing and smelling the plants. However, this Botanical Garden is divided into a bunch of smaller gardens, including s special one for children, a multisensory garden, a Japanese garden, one with all native plants, and more. This kind of focus allows you to notice specific things about each garden.
This particular garden also has a collection of really special bridges. Since botanical gardens generally have paths laid out in interesting (rather than efficient) ways, they tend to be a lot of fun for map work. This one has a compass rose and gives out maps, so it’s ideal for using two dimensional maps to find your way around in three dimensional space, but most gardens are also excellent for figuring out how to represent three dimensional space in two dimensions. If the garden is large or consists of multiple distinct gardens, divide it up among your students and have them create maps.
Enjoy the water features, interpretive features, and buildings of your local or virtual botanical garden field trips, but don’t miss the research and conservation work being done — most botanical gardens have a lot going on behind the scenes.
There are many online botanical gardens:
- The Huntington Library contains one of my favorite public gardens, and it has a collection of lesson plans that will be great for plant studies whether you can visit the gardens or not.
- Missouri Botanical Garden has extensive online discovery materials for kids.
- Plant Hunters is a snazzy virtual adventure from the New York Botanical Garden.
- The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew’s Great Plant Hunt is for schools in the UK, but it’s fun for everyone to explore. Also check out the Kids Area, play Tweet and Grow — listen, just make sure you have plenty of time to explore this site.
- South African National Biodiversity Institute has pictures from a number of South African botanical gardens, as well as a lot of good information about biodiversity, why it matters, and what people can do to encourage it.