Naturally engaged: Botanical Garden opens Perennial Playspace

This past Saturday, March 19, Cleveland Botanical Garden officially opened the Ron and Lydia Harrington Perennial Playspace

Made to complement the Garden’s glasshouse exhibits, the space offers interactive learning experiences for children and their families—giving them context for the natural world around them.

There’s something for every child to take part in and enjoy in the sensory play area. “We are excited to open this four-season learning and enrichment space that complements our Glasshouse biomes,” says Jill Koski, president and CEO of Holden Forests & Gardens. “Children and families can use play, observation, creativity, and other hands-on opportunities to create personal and relevant links to their natural surroundings. Our hope is that this experience will plant the seeds for lifelong habits of environmental stewardship.”

The Garden worked closely with Roto Group, an experiential design firm in Dublin, Ohio, to capture plant life locally and on a global scale.

The exhibit is multi-sensory and multi-faceted, as it has several activities for children to complete.

For those with a knack for creativity, there’s a rubbing table and collaboration tree for crafts. The rubbing table has children touch and experience natural plant materials, and the collaboration tree allows kids to make plants of their own to hang on a tree-like sculpture.

If you’re more of an observer than a hands-on person, check out the magnification station, light table, or sensory play station in the new Playspace. 

Each station’s activities showcase different aspects of plant life—from the way the samples feel to their microscopic details. Additionally, a Madagascar-native panther chameleon demonstrates its colorful ability to adjust to its environment in a terrarium.

There’s something for every child to take part in and enjoy in the sensory play area. Toddlers can make music with bamboo; buzz around a beehive and pretend to live like a bee while climbing a larger-than-life honeycomb cluster; and draw their favorite animals at the sketching frames station. 

The gallery was designed for the enjoyment of people of all ages. In addition to children’s activities, guests can learn more about Northeast Ohio’s plant communities and those in the Garden through a new mural.

Botanical Garden guests can visit a rooftop planter and view Cleveland artist Emily Katzin’s works—which feature collages using leaves and other plant-based materials to create insects and animals, as well as highlight sustainability issues related to waste and local ecology. 

The Perennial Playspace will be open for year-round use. For a complete list of activities and featured attractions, click here.

Read more articles by Dana Shugrue.

Dana Shugrue is a graduate of John Carroll University, where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Digital Media and Professional Writing. She is a full-time Content Specialist at Budget Dumpster, and part-time freelance writer for FreshWater Cleveland. When she’s not writing, you can catch Dana taking a run through the metros or sipping a latte at her favorite local coffee shop.