New Sensory Garden Area for the Children’s Museum in Edwardsville IL

The Edwardsville Children’s Museum’s mission is to stimulate curiosity and cultivate learning at the age of wonder. They strive to create indoor and outdoor spaces where children can invigorate their five senses and explore the world around them, which is why they came to us with the idea of a children’s garden

One such space, their Discovery Garden, already has various “sub-gardens” within it that implement the museum’s mission statement. However, some spaces were crying out for more development to take the Discovery Garden to the next level. And this is where Envisioning Green came in.

The owners of Envisioning Green – a married couple with a young son – visited the museum for the first time in the fall of 2022. They fell in love with how their son played so enthusiastically in the different play areas of the museum. Inspired by this, they asked themselves, “How can we help?” So they contacted the museum director and arranged an on-site meeting. 

A blank canvas

At the meeting, the director mentioned they had a large grassy area adjacent to the raised deck where storytime was held daily. Parents and grandparents would bring their children here and sit on the deck and the grassy area to listen to the stories. However, due to too much foot traffic, the grass was patchy in most places, leading to a semi-mud pit that needed to be addressed.

But, more importantly, the space was a blank canvas begging for a painter’s brush – to be transformed into something more, something that would truly stimulate curiosity and cultivate learning for the children.

Before

Something to stimulate the senses

 

Envisioning Green offered to partner its resources with the museum to fund a joint effort to overhaul the space and turn it into a more grand space. The museum director only had two requirements: that we solve the mud pit issue and that we try to incorporate points of interest that would engage the five senses in whatever design we devised.

Considering these requirements, we took measurements and elevations and hit the ground running with our design.

A “secret garden”

We came up with a concept we called a “secret garden”. The main event of this secret garden was the new paver patio space. Using Belgard’s Mega-Arbel pavers, which are formed to look like flagstone patios, we built a space that would eliminate the issue of muddiness, as well as create more seating space for storytime.

We also constructed a kid’s-height seating wall along one end of the patio where children, parents and grandparents could sit and relax.

Some extra flare

Having created meandering beds of small trap rock on both sides of the patio, we then cut a swath of black Belgard Belgian cobble down the center of the patio, to create the appearance that a “stream” was flowing around and through the patio. We even took some pavers, colored them, and then shaped them into the form of various fish!

But it wasn’t just the patio that made this new addition to the Discovery Garden special. We created a meandering, natural fon du lac stone pathway that meandered through the garden, with special stopping points throughout the path: children could smell summer-blooming hydrangea, ring the wind chimes positioned atop berms or climb small boulders or traverse bridges made from native trees.

We also enclosed the secret garden with a simple matrix of trap boulders and native plants to make it feel like a unique space.

Outdoor kitchen

To put the icing on the cake, we installed a kid-sized kitchenette with a dining table, both full-masonry and made from a natural stone quarried in Wisconsin called Willowbrook Brown. 

The natural stone countertops we placed on both the kitchenette and the dining table were just one more component that made it feel like a true outdoor kitchen.

And, of course, we had to have fun seating: multi-colored kids’ benches were placed around the dining table.

The really cool thing about this space was it was placed close to the museum’s raised garden beds. This placement would allow the museum to teach about “farm-to-table” concepts and help kids learn more about sustainability.

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