by Mary Nita Bondurant–
On the North side of Discovery Park of America, there is a brand new area — one that invites children to whirl and twirl, climb and dream, play and scheme. It is the Children’s Discovery Garden. It will bring hours of learning fun to children and maybe give their caregivers a well-deserved break while visiting Discovery Park of America.
From the Rhapsody outdoor musical instruments, to the babbling brook, from the dinosaur fossil dig to the outdoor labyrinth classroom, from the giant chess/checker set to the fossils hidden in the rock structures, the Children’s Discovery Garden is a place to learn and a place to play.
According to Grounds Director John Watkins, Albert Einstein once said, “Play is the highest form of research.” And, while Discovery Park of America is not a children’s museum, it attracts children from near and far. “We realized early on that we needed a place where children could dream, imagine, expend energy, and enjoy free play while their caregivers could take a break while visiting the park,” Watkins said. “Our entire team was eager to create this space, and fortunately, the Kirkland Foundation agreed.”
Over a year in the works, the Children’s Discovery Garden was designed and developed by Recreational Concepts using many unique pieces of play equipment from Landscape Structures. Watkins oversaw the project for Discovery Park, with his plan to add topiaries, butterfly gardens, sensory, and other gardens. All beautify and add to the educational value of the space.
The new space cost just over a half million dollars and was funded by the Robert and Jenny Kirkland Foundation. It features a treehouse tower, a unique Zip Krooz zip line, hillside slide, balance beams, log steppers, climbing rocks, corkscrew nets, saddle spinners, an Omni spinner, and Rhapsody outdoor musical instruments.
CEO Jim Rippy is excited about the opening of the Children’s Garden. “It was the number one request by our visitors. Our grounds team has worked tirelessly to make this happen, in spite of several setbacks due to the weather,” he said. “We believe that local families will want to purchase annual memberships and visit the park more often now that we have this amazing area for children to learn and play.”
The park celebrated the opening of the new garden with a ground breaking sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, May 16. It is now available daily from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays, during the park’s normal hours.
“We just want to invite everyone out to see our new addition,” Rippy said. “Throughout this project, we embraced a certain written concept of Landscape Structures – when we ask kids to think big, we need to remember that they’re asking the same of us. We think we planned a place for children to learn and play like no other in the area, and we hope that they enjoy it for years to come.”
The park’s Educational Director, Polly Brasher, said that she hopes the Children’s Discovery Garden will be a space “where healthful habits of inquisitiveness and exercise take root and possibilities blossom. We look forward to using it as a resource to fulfill our mission of helping children ‘see beyond’ their current level of knowledge.”
Visiting the Children’s Discovery Garden is free for anyone with an Annual Pass. For all others, it is included in the park admission. To find out more about Discovery Park of America, including the complete calendar of educational classes and events, visit the park’s website at www.discoveryparkofamerica.com. Discovery Park of America is located at 840 Everett Blvd., Union City, Tennessee. It is a unique collection of history, science, educational opportunities, and fun.