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  • Author or Editor: Woo-Kyun Lee x
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The purpose of this study was to identify the current status and future development of children’s gardens within public gardens in the United States and to examine their roles as places for children to explore natural environments. This study identified 776 public gardens and examined 163 of those gardens using a comprehensive online survey. The sampled public gardens were widely distributed throughout the United States, although they were located primarily in the eastern and western regions of the United States. We found that 55% of the 163 public gardens that we investigated included a children’s garden at the time of data collection, and 26.4% planned to add a children’s garden in the near future. Children’s gardens found within public gardens were typically in a botanical garden and were added after the public gardens were formed. Most of the children’s gardens had a stated purpose of providing children with environmental education by allowing them to experience the natural environment through play. Most children’s gardens occupied a small proportion, less than 1 acre, of the overall size of a public garden. We also found that demographic and socioeconomic factors influenced the development of children’s gardens within public gardens and public gardens in general.

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This study examines the current status, implementation, and foci of children’s education programs as a subset of general audience-targeted public education programs offered by public children’s gardens in the United States. Children were a major target audience of the examined public gardens, followed by adults, families, and youth. Public children’s gardens tended to offer more programs overall compared with public gardens without children’s gardens. In addition, there was a greater diversity of children’s education programs offered (classified into 10 topics and 11 activities) in public children’s gardens. The most frequently offered topics were plants (39.1%), animals (22.0%), and art (11.3%). Observation was the most frequently offered activity (17.1%), followed by visual art (14.4%). However, the proportions of offered programs significantly differed across individual public children’s gardens. The subjects (i.e., topics and activities) offered by children’s education programs were more often directed toward younger children. Education coordinators and horticulture directors were asked about desired improvements to children’s education programs. A large number of respondents (50) indicated a need to develop programs with greater topical variety, revealing a desire to diversify programs. In conclusion, the results of this study indicate that it is important to diversify the natural environmental experiences of education programs for children through developing children’s gardens and age-specific education at public children’s gardens in the United States.

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