The Children's Garden Discovery Trail is part of the Holistic Garden. The purpose of the Trail is to help visitors learn about the garden as an ecosystem. Contact with nature is restorative, that is, it helps us relax, reducing stress and mental fatigue. Our garden is "nearby nature" and provides this restorative benefit.
The Children's Garden Discovery Trail is an introduction to the garden as an ecosystem and offers gardening techniques that will enhance nature in our gardens. When one understands the complex interactions going on in the ecosystem, one is less likely to do things that would be destructive to part of the ecosystem.
The trail is a series of 30 information panels that explain the garden ecosystem. The panels are interspersed with many of the plants that are mentioned in them. These panels are projects produced by students in the Sociohorticulture course at Texas A&M University and are updated each fall semester.
Panels along the trail discuss such topics as plants, their classification, growth and development; the role of plants in human health and nutrition; birds; butterflies; insects; soil composition; compost and vermicompost; garden reptiles and mammals; and xeric, mesic and hydric ecosystems. Each project has an interactive component which is usually a quiz or a challenge of some sort, such as digging in the "soil" to find bacteria, fungi, air, water, earth worms, insects and other things.
Some examples of the information panels follow.
The hydric ecosystem is a garden wetland. The panel depicts a cross section through a small pond. Near the panel is a shallow pool with small nets and containers that allow youngsters to dip into the water to examine the algae, submerged plants, dragon fly larvae and other things that can be seen in the water of this valuable garden resource. Tadpoles and minnows can be seen swimming in the water and small frogs hop from one lily pad to another. The wetland pool trails off into an intermittent stream with other types of wetland plants.
The exhibit on the garden underground gives an opportunity to look below the soil surface. Opaque panels in the side of this raised bed can be lifted to reveal the roots, rhizomes and other plant structures that develop below the soil surface.
A panel on birds illustrates simple projects that children can do to attract birds to their gardens, such as pinecone bird feeders and coffee can bird houses. Another panel shows the birds that can be found in the Holistic Garden.
Another exhibit is a geography lesson on the origin of our common vegetables. A second panel illustrates the importance of vegetables to our health. Associated with these panels are beds of vegetables grouped by their continent of origin, Africa, Asia, Europe, South America and North America.
The Holistic Garden is located immediately south of the Horticulture / Forest Sciences Bldg. on the TAMU campus. Anyone can visit the garden. Parking Area 74 is near to the garden and is not ticketed on weekends. The 23rd Annual Plant Fair will be held April 2. It is an important source of funding for development of the Children's Garden Discovery Trail. The sale will be on the lawn between the Parking Area and the Holistic Garden. Parking Area 74 is at the end of Olsen Blvd. on the West Campus of Texas A & M University.