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Sneak Peek: Education's In Bloom At Dallas Arboretum Children's Garden

It took 16 years for the seed of an idea for a children’s garden to blossom at the Dallas Arboretum. But this weekend, the public will finally get to see what the $62 million dollar project looks like.

Sure, it’s got water blasters, CSI mysteries and secret garden mazes, but your kids won’t be able to escape without learning something.

Eight year old Haleigh Self is busy turning cranks and pumping levers at the Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden. But she takes a quick break to fill us in on what she’s up to.

“I am spraying water to turn the plane forth,” says Haleigh. “If I stop, the water doesn’t do any more for a while.”

Credit Courtney Collins / KERA News
Haleigh Self hangs out on water energy island, her favorite spot in the children's garden.

Haleigh is standing smack dab in the middle of one of the children’s garden’s energy islands. There’s one devoted to solar, another for wind and of course, an island featuring the power of H20.

If you don’t light up over all things energy, you’ve got a lot of other options here. Visit the incredible, edible garden, pick your way through an outdoor maze or crank up a Texas hailstorm, safely behind glass of course.

Need to cool down? The indoor Exploration Center is loaded with hands-on fun. Wannabe scientists can even extract strawberry DNA in a guided experiment.

Like the Arboretum, the Rory Meyers Children’s Garden is bursting with flora and fauna. But the motto is education first.

“Science are the lowest test scores of any academic area tested nationally and in Texas, so we spent a lot of time thinking, how do we make this richer?,” wonders Project Manager Maria Conroy. “How do we make this, using best practices of education, have meaning for the children so they really understand it?”

Earth Cycles features a cave dripping with stalactites, a working sundial and an opportunity for students to test erosion by setting up a miniature community and then unleashing the power of water.

Credit Courtney Collins / KERA News
A "bug's eye" view of the children's garden. If you look through these binoculars, you can see what plants look like to different pollinators.

With hundreds of hands-on games to try and eight acres to explore, you can easily spend a whole day at the Children’s Garden. And Conroy hopes for kids especially, this kind of outdoor fun will be habit forming.

“Besides being such a sprawling urban city, we also are in a technological age where what they choose to do is be inside, on the computer, on the phone, on the game box,” Conroy says. “And they’re really not understanding how the earth works, and they’re going to be in charge of it.”

But on preview night, the kids galloping through the garden didn’t seem to miss their XBox or SpongeBob SquarePants. Because let’s face it, an undersea cartoon character can’t compete with a giant eagle’s nest or solar magnifiers that activate whirligigs.

Here’s a look at prices for the Arboretum and other kid friendly attractions in North Texas.

Dallas Arboretum

Adults: $15

Children: $10

Rory Meyers Children’s Garden: Add $3 to Arboretum admission

Parking: $10 (day parking only, $5)

Perot Museum of Nature and Science

Adults $15

Students: $12

Children: $10

Parking: $6

Fort Worth Museum of Science and History

Adults: $14

Seniors/Juniors: $10

Parking: $8

Six Flags Over Texas

Adults: $64.99 (at the door)

Children: $49.99 (at the door)

Parking: $20

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.