Botanical Garden of the Ozarks is a Place For Kids to Get Back to Nature
By Dave Woods • Official Kids Mag
Photos by Rachel Lipe
Going to Garden Buds gets Olivia Barahona smiling.
“I like it because there is so much to do,” the 7-year-old said. “I play and learn about stuff.”
Olivia, and a dozen or so other elementary school kids from around the area, descend on the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks every Wednesday during the summer to take part in the garden’s Garden Buds program where kids learn about plants, flowers, vegetables and nature.
Olivia, who attends Turnbow Elementary in Springdale, listened intently to a recent lesson on vegetables and healthy eating.
“Vegetables help you be fit,” she explained. “They are nutritious. Some of them help your eyes. Some help your heart and stuff. It’s important to know a lot of stuff and be healthy.”
Knowing the program’s Botanical Garden of the Ozarks offers inspire young people also inspires Liz Atwell.
“It’s the best,” the garden’s communications coordinator said, gesturing at the plants and flowers. “This is my office. It’s such an amazing place to work.”
Liz, who has been with the garden since 2017, enjoys working with the kids and adults who visit and volunteer at the not-for-profit organization dedicated to showcasing the natural beauty of the Ozarks, educating for a sustainable future and providing a gathering place for celebrations and enrichment. In fact, that’s their mission statement.
“We see a wide age range of kids that come out to the garden throughout the year,” she explained. “We have little bitty ones who come out for our Little Sprouts program. We have our older Garden Buds. Our big event in the summer is our Firefly Fling in July where kids come out and have a fun evening dressing up in costumes and doing fun crafts.”
Seeing the kids interact with the numerous gardens, within the garden, Liz knows it gets kids interested in learning and loving the outdoors.
“It’s really fun because you get to see them connect with nature and the environment,” she said. “They touch things and get up close with butterflies and caterpillars. It’s something you don’t always get the opportunity to do in the classroom. It’s fun to see them engage and get excited about what we have right here in our own back yard.”
Liz shared a story about a recent event that put the importance of Botanical Garden of the Ozarks in perspective for her.
“We had a neat full-circle moment recently with the woman who founded our Little Sprouts program,” she said. “Several years ago, when she started Little Sprouts, she was pregnant with her daughter. That daughter is now 10-years old. She came and spoke at an event we hosted. She was basically raised out here. She talked about what that experience was like. There are volunteers here who literally watched her grow up here at the garden.”
While the botanical garden features hundreds of varieties of trees, plants, flowers and vegetables, it is also home to birds, bees and insects.
“The butterfly house in a great place for kids because they get to see a full life cycle from egg to caterpillar to an adult butterfly,” Liz said. “We hope that kids will walk away wanting to come back to learn more, want to take care of the environment and share that with others. We just want to inspire the next generation to take care of this beautiful place we have. Not just the botanical garden, but all of Northwest Arkansas.”
Go to bgozarks.org to learn more about Botanical Garden of the Ozarks, its programs and memberships.