2009 Archives

Dallas Arboretum Teams Up with SMU on Children’s Garden

April 27, 2009

A new partnership between the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development and the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society represents a winning opportunity for SMU students and school children throughout North Texas.

Arboretum President and CEO Mary Brinegar ‘69, who holds an elementary education degree from SMU.
Mary Brinegar (‘69), President and CEO of the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society, is launching a new children’s garden to strengthen science education for young students.

The Arboretum plans to begin construction in early 2010 on the new $43 million, seven-acre Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden. The area will be the largest science education garden in the country, filled with concepts that correspond to state and national standards in earth science and life science for kindergarten through sixth grade, says Arboretum President and CEO Mary Brinegar (‘69), who holds an elementary education degree from SMU.

“One of the best days we ever had was when we had an opportunity to talk with Dean David Chard about having a working relationship with SMU. We are very interested in making sure that we have the latest in evaluation techniques and are up to date with the latest ways of teaching,” she said.

The school and its students will rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of the garden’s teaching activities to make sure the lessons are retained. she explained.

Chard put Brinegar in touch with Professor Peter Raad, executive director of The Guildhall at SMU, the premier graduate video game education program in the U.S. Guildhall students, education students and Arboretum educators will work together to design technology-based activities that will reinforce the outdoor lessons and be located in a new teaching building within the garden, she said.

The Arboretum’s staff of degreed teachers currently presents formal lessons to more than 70,000 students a year. Brinegar hopes the partnership with SMU will help the garden become a national tourist destination like the famous Exploratorium science museum in San Francisco.

The new garden will include water tables to study erosion and deposition, as well as an elevated walkway through the tree canopy so that visitors can see the ecology at treetop level and even experience a simulated cloud walk, like in a rain forest. In addition, the garden will contain a Secret Garden Maze that will require visitors to answer science questions correctly in order to reach the Secret Garden: a spot from which it will be possible to view all five waterfalls in the exhibit. Incorrect answers lead to dead ends, which will make visitors rethink their answers, retrace their steps and relearn the material, she said. The questions and even the path through the maze will change periodically, she said.

“We can make science teaching come alive with the garden, but technology raises all of that to the next level,” Brinegar said.

This story first appeared in the Education School's spring 2009 edition of Potential Newsletter .

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