A new project planned for the Botanic Park has Cayman’s young people firmly at heart.

Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park’s proposed Children’s Garden will be located close to the visitor center, allowing for quick and easy admission. The half-acre, accessible garden is anticipated to cater to kids up to age 14, with plenty of opportunities to engage their curiosity.

The garden’s main structure will provide space for all-weather teaching, as well as washrooms and storage.

Park general manager John Lawrus explained that the garden was part of the original 1996 master plan for the park, but at that time it was referred to as the Discovery Garden.

“It is one of the last few components of the original master plan that has been not been completed, largely as a result of funding and the amount of forethought that has to be put in the design,” said Mr. Lawrus.

Mr. Lawrus said the renewed interest in making the children’s garden a reality was spurred by the success of many recent family events at the park, and the limited number of areas where children can safely play and actively learn through using all their senses.

19-sept-2016-qe2-botanic-park-childrens_-garden-map“It has become evident as technology and the dependency we have on it grows, the value of an outdoor learning space grows immensely.

“The need to get back to our roots and physically play, and get dirty, all the while learning about our environment, has been generally lost on the masses, and I hope to spark that interest again.”

Developing a garden that has children as a focus is no easy task but Mr. Lawrus says a good team is behind the planning process.

“Thankfully, we have had the assistance of architect John Doak in putting many of the thoughts and ideas to paper. The conceptual drawing is a work in progress, but we hope to make [most] of the ideas come to life. I am always open to new suggestions and ideas.”
Since Cayman’s botanic park was first designed, a few changes have occurred globally that will be reflected in the new garden.

“The design of children’s gardens in botanic gardens have changed quite a bit over the years, and this conceptual plan hopes to encompass some of the new thoughts and ideas on how children learn, both through passive play and directed teaching,” said Mr. Lawrus.

“I have been reviewing and visiting children’s gardens for the last few years and have seen what does and doesn’t work,” he continued.

The botanic park is planning a new garden just for kids. - Photo: Jewel Levy
The botanic park is planning a new garden just for kids. – Photo: Jewel Levy

“Along with great ideas from some members of the Garden Club of the Cayman Islands, we created the basis for the beginning of our own children’s garden. We have been made aware that it is important to make it work for our own community, and our own needs.”

Mr. Lawrus noted the ideas presented in the park’s concept all have an educational aspect whether small or large, with components that suit the site and climate, for instance, plenty of shaded areas.

“We plan to have an emphasis on earth sciences, with features like a sensory garden where kids will be encouraged to smell, taste and touch, a flower structure with parts of flowers and plants, and a lawn area for play,” he said.

“Children can be learning about recycling by being inside a giant bird’s nest, learning about how a tree grows while climbing the tree house, or simply listening to their teacher in our open-air classroom after collecting samples from within the garden to study. It’s all about learning, passively or directly.”

Other planned components include an area with raised planting beds offering a way for kids to get their hands dirty, water features, mini ecosystems, a cave and vine tunnels, an amphitheater, a rope bridge and even a maze.

Mr. Lawrus’s aim is to have the garden completed in two years but he acknowledged that the timeline is largely dependent on funding and donations. For now, site work and preparation is slated to start in late October or November.

“With this garden, I hope to inspire some young children to become interested in their environment, botanic parks and the importance of conservation, and ideally one of these young persons will take a leadership role in the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park,” he said.

“Additionally, the continued growth of the QEII Botanic Park will only help make it one of the most important resources that we have in the Cayman Islands.”

For more information, contact Mr. Lawrus at [email protected]