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Living classroom teaches kids about the environment

May 7, 2018

We build so many exciting projects, it’s difficult to pick favourites, but the Discovery Garden at Wellington’s Botanic Gardens definitely holds a special place in our hearts. Designed as a living classroom to teach kids about our natural world, the Garden opened in late 2017.

We caught up with Garden Manager David Sole from Wellington City Council to hear how the Discovery Garden is going and to understand WCC’s drivers for undertaking the project.

What was the driver for creating the Discovery Garden?

Botanic gardens around the world are moving more towards conservation and sustainability, and we wanted to become part of that. The Discovery Garden is designed as an educational tool to teach children about the natural environment.

It was also about taking the Garden back to its roots. The original Botanic Gardens had a teaching garden back in the late 1880’s, so in a way we have sort of come full circle.

Why is it important to teach kids about the natural world?

Plants are the foundation of everything: without plants there is no life.

As society becomes more intensely urbanised our connection to nature can easily be lost. Gardens like this help children make that connection between plants and the world around them.

When kids buy cereal or fruit and vegetables in the supermarket, they need to know where that food comes from…the Discovery Garden helps make that connection. The four elements in the Garden (Food, Fibre, Medicine and Construction) are designed to teach children about the millions of uses of plants in a practical way.

Is the garden delivering the outcomes that you were seeking?

This is the first major development in the Botanic Gardens since 1996 and we’re really proud of how it has turned out, and the contribution it is making to environmental education right across the city.

What has been the feedback from children?

So far it’s been great, we’re still refining and developing our programmes but we have already had several thousand children participate in the holiday and schools programme and the feedback from both has been really positive. As one child said “They built all of this for us?”, which really shows how much children are enjoying visiting the garden.

How was Maycroft as a construction partner?

Great, they really went the extra mile on this project.

What are your future aspirations for the garden?

The Discovery Garden will encourage children and families to recognise our dependence on plants and where the plants come from. They will become the advocates in our cities for plants and for nature which contribute to our health and well being, our quality of life to our urban ecosystems and towards sustainability. Children are the future of our cities. They will take forward and articulate the message and mantra of “Think global - act local”.

Photo Credit: Justine Hall, Wellington City Council


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