by Katie Keith, Springfield-Greene County Botanical Center Coordinator
“Tell me something good that a plant did for you today…,” is the phrase I use to engage a fieldtrip class in the gardens. Most kids can come up with answers like, food and oxygen, but if you dig deeper, students have plenty of room to grow in plant knowledge and the workings of our environment. Did you know that most students cannot identify common plants like pine, maple and oak? Students don’t recognize a carrot until you pull it out of the ground. Parents are dumbstruck when they see how the peanut flowers above ground, is pollinated and develops its seed or peanut underground. We are so fortunate to have a botanical garden and be surrounded by such wonderful resources in our community. Now, we are finally poised to dig deeper with our horticultural interpreter staff, Becky Day, who has a multi-dimensional approach for connecting with families and especially kids! I would like to share some of the needs we have for reaching the next generation and how Parks staff is working with Friends of the Garden to provide opportunities for our community to invest in our community.
When the Botanical Center opened nine years ago, there were no policies, no guidelines, no education plan, no marketing plan, no programming calendar and a very rough sketch for potential future gardens. It has taken several years and evolutions to create the framework for truly start to look like a botanical garden and each partner to assume a role. The Master Plan Review Committee composed of Friends of the Garden board and staff and Parks staff, meets monthly to address the looks and amenities in the gardens. The popularity of the garden has pressed us to take a closer look at traffic issues, maintenance issues and safety as we consider additional plants and gardens. The development of the Sensory Garden is so critical to our operations I hope I can continue to paint a picture about how this will be a very different garden!
I mentioned earlier how Mrs. Day has expanded engagement especially for families and children. This is the second year of summer evening programming and she organized the curriculum for three uniquely themed Junior Master Gardener Camps this summer. Unfortunately, she does not have the space for students to dig, harvest and create in the gardens. Taking from an old Chinese proverb, “When I hear, I forget. When I see, I remember. When I do, I understand.” We want to make a difference between the classroom experience, that assumes most learning by hearing, and give people a chance to taste, smell, see and touch the plants and soil to learn and “do” in a garden space without disturbing the beautiful gardens. A teaching greenhouse would help provide a climate-controlled area that would facilitate learning year-round. The community needs a working garden in addition to the display and demonstration gardens. The sensory garden is about to break ground on a dual fountain that will delight all the senses! Now is a great time to get involved in the development as we start to focus more on food and drink from plants, providing opportunities for people with sense impairments with attractive sound and touch experiences, and creating a stage for deeper engagement in the gardens. Everyone is invited to participate in the Master Plan for the Springfield Botanical Gardens, so we can serve the community for decades to come.
Family Fridays in the Garden
Friday, August 2 from 7:30-9pm: Ozarks Woodpeckers
Junior Master Gardener Day Camps
Monday-Friday, July 8-12 from 8:30am-3:30pm: Junior Master Gardener Day Camp
Monday-Friday, July 15-19 from 8:30am-3:30pm: Wildlife Gardener Day Camp
Monday-Friday, July 22-26 from 8:30am-3:30pm: Junior Master Gardener Day Camp
Katie Keith holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in ornamental horticulture and landscape design from the University of Tennessee in her home state. Her passion for public gardens brought her to Springfield, Mo. to become the first Springfield-Greene County Botanical Center Coordinator for the Springfield-Greene County Park Board.