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Art&Seek Jr: 7 Things You Don’t Want To Miss At The Dallas Arboretum’s New Children’s Garden

Art&Seek Jr. is one mom‘s quest to find activities to end the seemingly endless chorus of the “I’m Bored Blues” while having fun herself. Impossible you say? Check back on Tuesdays for kid-friendly events that are fun for adults, too.

You’d have to be living under a rock to not know about the new Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden opening this weekend at the Dallas Arboretum. The garden has been all over the news for a few weeks, and kids in North Texas have been positively bursting in anticipation for that first peek. From personal experience, I can tell you that since about the middle of the summer I have not been able to drive past the Arboretum gates on Garland Road without Rose interjecting from the backseat, “When is that place gonna be open, already?”

No doubt about it, the little kiddles are fired up about this one.

There's science everywhere you look. (photo Therese Powell)

There’s science everywhere you look. (Photo: Therese Powell)

If you were thinking this was a Kensington Gardens meets Alice In Wonderland experience – where you and the tots stroll through kid-themed manicured gardens with little more to do than look for a photo op – you’d be wrong. The garden, which stretches over eight acres and features 17 indoor/outdoor galleries, is more aptly described as an outdoor science lab on steroids with a touch of whimsy and magic throw in for good measure. This is Shangri-La for pint-sized lovers of the earth sciences. But even if your kids aren’t into science, they’re going to love this place.

Listen to KERA’s Courtney Collins radio story as she talks to one young ebullient visitor.

It goes without saying that when you visit, you should be prepared to spend a few hours – there’s a boatload of things see and do. Rose and I were lucky enough to get a preview of the garden last week. As she excitedly barreled from one exhibit to the next (as most children will undoubtedly do), I had to constantly call her back to take a second look at something she’d missed in her flurry to see everything at once. In the back of my mind I kept thinking that a kid version of one of those retractable dog leases would come in handy in a situation like this.

So with that in mind, here’s a list of stuff you don’t want to pass up when you’re on your way to the big stuff:

rabbit trails

Shhhh…Be very quiet. I’m trackin’ wabbits! (Photo: Therese Powell)

1. While they’re taking turns peeking through the giant kaleidoscope, be sure to have the kids look for shapes and patterns in this area. When we were taking in all the patterns in sand, water and landscapes, we spied a colorful, spongy hopscotch grid made to look like a flower. It was a great reminder to us that math and spatial relations appear in nature.

2. Between the Earth Cycles and Living Cycles Galleries, you’ll find a sundial that uses your body. Have your child stand on the current month and her shadow will cast the time on the dial. Yes, I know, we’ve all seen sundials before. But it really is a stroke of genius to engage the kids this way. There’s the “Wow! That’s cool!” that all parents love to hear when our child embraces science. But better than that are the questions of how it works that inevitably follow. F.Y.I. be sure to Google “sundials” before you go.

3. Take a leisurely stroll on the Walk On The Wild Side trail. I say leisurely because instead of sprinting through the zig-zag course, you’re going to want to take it slow and look for clues left behind by native animals. We spotted the “tracks” of a jack rabbit in the cement, which led us to a statue of the critter hiding nearby in the tall grass.

It's cool here! (photo Therese Powell)

It’s cool here! (Photo: Therese Powell)

4. Further up the Walk On The Wild Side Trail is a vine-covered rest area that features a refreshing mister. True, these little oases (which are scattered throughout the garden) don’t have anything to do with science. But after a few hours in the baking sun with a red-faced toddler, you’ll think they’re heaven sent.

5. Over in the far corner of the garden is the Texas Native Wetlands Gallery. The plants in this mini ecosystem are all native to Texas, and it’s positively jumping with flora and fauna. Besides the multitudes of dragonflies buzzing overhead, if you look carefully you can spy a frog or two swimming among reeds.

6. One of the biggest attractions at the garden is the Omniglobe inside the Exploration Center. The five-foot-tall globe sits in its own theater. It has a touch-screen that can show kids everything from continental drift to weather patterns. On the day we were there, a nice volunteer from Australia used the globe to show us the tsunami that struck Indonesia in December 2004. Sure, I remember it being devastating. But to actually see the massive red wave ripple across the globe really made a powerful new impression.

See where the Omniglobe can take you. (photo: Therese Powell)

See where the Omniglobe can take you. (Photo: Therese Powell)

7. In addition to being a science mecca with opportunities to learn around every corner, this is also a picturesque garden with stunning views of White Rock Lake. Not to be cliché, but take time to stop and smell the flowers here. You might need to reel the kids in, but encourage them to do the same. While we were there, we saw the dragon boats skimming across the lake right at sunset. It was a beautiful sight.

Therese Powell is an Art&Seek calendar coordinator and KERA-TV producer. She spends most of her free time seeking out adventures for her 8-year-old daughter, Rose. Tell us about your ideas for kid adventures by leaving a comment. Or e-mail Therese at tpowell@kera.org.