The Chicago Botanic Garden's Regenstein Learning Campus is something special

The Chicago Botanic Garden's Regenstein Learning Campus is something special
Aerial view of the Learning Campus. Photo: Courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

The Chicago Botanic Garden's Regenstein Learning Campus, truly, is something special. The Learning Center, nestled on seven magnificently landscaped acres, offers a living laboratory for learning.

The welcoming campus encompasses four areas where nature and knowledge intersect: a nature play garden, the learning center, a children's growing garden and a water garden area. Here's what they offer:

1. The Nature Play Garden

The rolling hills in the Nature Play Garden. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The rolling hills in the Nature Play Garden. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The inviting 1.5 acre nature garden calls out to children (and even adults--at least on the day I was there) to jump, roll, splash, climb and play among the hills, lawn and natural play structures in the garden. Landscape designer Mikyoung Kim provided the concept vision for the Nature Play Garden with Jacobs/Ryan Associates adapting the design.

The runnel invites visitors to splash in the cool water--especially on a hot day. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The runnel invites visitors to splash in the cool water--especially on a hot day. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The expansive garden features a runnel, rolling hills, a willow tunnel, and natural “rooms” defined by arborvitaes and hornbeams. There are places to hide, rest and discover outdoor wonders among the sugar maples, aspen, redbud groves and native plants.

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Hollowed out wood logs provide tunnels for those inclined to crawl through or hide inside. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

 2. The Learning Center

The Learning Center building. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The Learning Center building. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The 26,700-square-foot Learning Center features 12 indoor and two outdoor classrooms. The building also includes exhibits, stunning art work along with an indoor bee hive.

An outdoor classroom where children can learn, paint and even make mud pies. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

An outdoor classroom where children can learn, paint and even make mud pies. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The building was designed by Chicago architectural firm Booth Hansen with sustainability input from experts at the Rocky Mountain Institute.

Even the interior curving hallways receive natural day light due to the building design. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Even the interior curving hallways receive natural day light due to the building design. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Recycled and low-carbon building materials were used in the architecturally distinctive, curving building,  featuring solar panels, natural daylight serving as lighting for 90 percent of the building and a rainwater capture and storage system

The ITW (International Tool Works) kitchen. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The ITW (International Tool Works) kitchen. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The Learning Campus offers 1,500 classes for preschool children to adults. The curriculum features a wide range of programming including art and gardening classes, field trips and teacher professional development programs, yoga, Tai Chi, cooking classes and demos and wellness offerings.

3. Grunsfeld Children's Growing Garden

The Grunsfeld Children's Growing Garden in full summer bloom. Photo: Courtesy of the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The Grunsfeld Children's Growing Garden in full summer bloom. Photo: Courtesy of the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The Children's Growing Garden offers children an opportunity to get hands-on experience with plants. The garden features, outdoor classrooms, raised beds, six in-ground demonstration beds, and five display beds. In addition it offers wheelchair-accessible trays in the raised beds that enable students of all abilities to join in the fun.

4. Kleinman Family Cove

The Kleinman Family Cove. Photo: Courtesy of the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The Kleinman Family Cove. Photo: Courtesy of the Chicago Botanic Garden.

The Kleinman Family Cove is all about water. The cove, located along 800 feet of restored shoreline gardens,  teaches the importance of water.  It features a boardwalk, an amphitheater, a protected wading area, and native plants--enabling students, adult educators, and visitors to learn critical information that freshwater systems play in the health of the natural world.

The cove was designed by Oehme, van Sweden & Associates.

From mud pies to rolling hills here's an overview of the Regenstein Learning Campus from opening weekend.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is open every day of the year. Admission is free but parking is $25 per car on weekdays; $30 per car on weekends and federal holidays with a special $10 rate for senior citizens on Tuesdays (age 62+). Members receive free parking and other benefits.

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