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One of the best ways to get to know a place is through its plants. For families with young children, botanical gardens are a win win attraction. They are a feast for the senses, great for working off excess energy, and a wonderful way to help kids connect with nature. The Fort Worth Botanic Garden offers all this, and introduces visitors to Texas’ native forests too.
Texas Rose Gardens
On an afternoon in early November, families strolled through the Oval and Lower Rose Gardens accompanied by professional photographers valiantly seeking to shoot the perfect holiday image. A backdrop of fountains, pergolas, and tiered garden beds filled with all shades of pink blossoms assured families of capturing a memorable keepsake.
Whether or not any of these were the famous “Texas rose” I don’t know. Roses were labeled, but these lovely gardens are worth visiting for their beauty, not their educational value.
Texas Native Forest Boardwalk
Adjacent to one of the rose gardens, and central to the botanic garden’s layout, the 995-foot Texas Native Forest Boardwalk provides an elevated walkway connecting its major features. The boardwalk itself is a fun attraction for kids of all ages – spotting scopes, whisper tubes, hollow tree tunnels, and even a “log hotel” – invite learning through play. Educational signs present scientific concepts relevant to forest ecology while encouraging discussion with open-ended questions. And viewing platforms ensure that educational concepts are grounded in discovering surrounding nature.
One of the more interesting features of the boardwalk is the division between natives and nonnatives. On the east side of the boardwalk you find natives, defined as plants present in Texas prior to European settlement. While many botanical gardens discourage non-natives because they pose a threat to native plants, this one features the invasive species on the west side of the boardwalk so that visitors can identify them and observe their impact.
A vocabulary quiz and printable activity sheets incorporating both the educational stations and the children’s physical fitness challenge trail are available, by grade level, here.
Education at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden
In addition to the conservation message and scientific concepts found in the Texas Native Forest Boardwalk, the Fort Worth Botanic Garden offers a number of other learning extensions. Classes, workshops, school programs, and self-guided field trips are enhanced by educational goals correlated with Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS,) the state’s core curriculum, to form “Plant a Seed TEKS.”
Seasonally, a Children’s Vegetable Garden brings 4th Graders of Fort Worth Independent School District to maintain an orchard and grow vegetables, herbs and berries. Produce is donated to the needy. And the garden offers master gardeners All interested adults- educators, administrators, support staff, parents
Planning a future visit? Teachers and other youth leaders can download an Education Brochure listing a number of available programs for youth groups, all offering science investigations leveled to elementary, middle school, and high school students.
No visit to the Botanic Garden would be complete without stopping at the Japanese Gardens. Designed as a place for meditation and relaxation, with deep reflective pools posing an inherent danger, children under 13 must be accompanied by an adult (one adult/5 children.) But it’s well worth the effort, and additional entrance fee, to get lost in the gentle tranquility of the Japanese Garden’s serpentine paths. Just don’t forget to bring quarters for the fish food dispensers, feeding the voracious koi is a favorite family activity no matter the age!
Fort Worth Segway Tours
Giving new meaning to ‘stop and smell the roses,’ Cowtown Segway Tours offers an introductory tour twice daily at the Botanic Garden. Billed as perfect for first timers, a path through the trees is a safe place to practice new skills. With 109 acres to explore, this may well be the easiest way to see it all.
For more images of the Botanic Garden, see family travel blogger Amy Moore’s photo essay, A Fall Day at The Fort Worth Botanic Gardens.