Places that Work: A Children’s Garden for Everyone

At the Botanical Gardens in San Marino, kids play and learn about the earth sciences and adults love the experience

The Bing Children’s Garden at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino is a place where children learn scientific concepts while having fun with their parents and caregivers. This is a place that works for visitors of every age. Though the garden was designed for 2- to 7-year-olds, here everyone can be seen having a good time. The exhibits are hands on. Kids learn while they laugh, ponder, and explore. 

The range of activities available in the lush garden setting is impressive.  On a recent visit, I saw some kids crawling through a tunnel and observing prisms of light, feeling and seeing sound waves in a pool of water, watching steam come out of a topiary volcano, and pondering what color light really is—all while they stood in the center of the circular rainbow created by misters spraying water from high overhead. 

Courtesy Sally Augustin

Others were manipulating a magnetic stand and examining a globe that shows which parts of the world are sunlit and which are dark at the time it’s being viewed. But the most amazing part of the garden are the pebble chimes. I watched as children picked up tiny stones from around the base of the semi-circular instrument and dropped them into a grate at the top of the chimes – the pebbles bounced around inside, from one metal post to the next, making an ethereal sound. 

The Bing Children’s Garden is a place that works because it meets user needs–both parents and kids leave happy and with a little more knowledge of how the world works than they had when they walked through the gates. Each exhibit teaches its young (and not so young) users important physical science concepts, which are also legitimately fun to experience.

The Bing Children’s Garden makes a positive and meaningful contribution to each visitor’s life. That means its design is aligned with the mission of The Huntington and its wise trustees.

Sally Augustin, PhD, is a principal at Design with Science . She is also the editor of Research Design Connections and the author of Place Advantage: Applied Psychology for Interior Architecture (Wiley, 2009). She can be reached at [email protected]

This post is part of a series of Places that Work.

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