The Chicago Botanic Garden is a beautiful showpiece in the world of Chicago museums and institutions. During any season, it’s plain to see the passion that goes into the design of each and every garden, and its natural beauty dazzles at nearly every turn. But the Botanic Garden is also an important center for learning and science. They’re actively involved in plant research, giving lectures on rare specimens like the corpse flower, educating the public on growing their own food, and even saving lives from time to time.
Throughout the years, the Botanic Garden has focused on learning by offering classes, talks and trips that help people understand the world around them. These events take place all over the garden, from walks to halls, kitchens and even a few mobile classrooms.
Just over a week ago, though, the Botanic Garden’s potential to reach out to potential learners exploded with the opening of the Regenstein Learning Campus. September 10th marked the opening of the beautiful 7 acre campus, which features a beautiful Nature Play Garden as well as a huge new 27,600-square-foot building that includes high-tech classrooms, labs and a teaching kitchen. The campus also incorporates the Grunsfeld Children’s Garden and beautiful Kleinman Family Cove, which were nearly criminally overlooked in the past.
We couldn’t help but start out at the Nature Play Garden, and noticed that nearly every child in attendance felt the same. It features absolutely irresistible hills (“They’re CRAZY hills!” noted one little guy as he ran past) covered in the most plush green grass we’ve seen anywhere. There’s also a gorgeous winding water feature shallow enough to be safe for wading, some giant hollowed-out logs for climbing and exploration, and a beautiful shaded willow tunnel in progress. This front lawn for the campus was magnetic in its draw, and, we expect, will continue to be one of the more popular parts of the garden.
Back in the building, we explored its sleek corridors and learned about the plans for the Joseph Regenstein Jr. School of the Botanic Garden. The new school plans to offer over 1500 classes in a year-round continuum, including professional certificate programs, youth curriculum, fitness and yoga, as well as the ever popular cooking classes. Also on-site is a Nature Preschool, which features a unique opportunity for children to learn with a focus on the world around them. Kids will spend 50% of their time outdoors in all weather, and will get a chance to explore the rest of the garden as their time there progresses.
We’re excited for all the possibilities that this new campus will bring to the garden and the community at large and encourage you to check out all the new offerings here. Meanwhile, check out the gallery above for pictures from the grand opening, and plan a trip to see the garden in fall. It’s a can’t-miss!