An Educational Service for Children between the Ages of 3 and 6

Offering full-day programs, the educational service “Children in the Garden” is specially tailored toward children between the ages of three and six years; it is open to Kindergarten groups from all childcare institutions in Frankfurt. This service, a one-of-a-kind in Germany, was established in 2009 as a cooperative effort between the Palmengarten and the independent Kita (childcare center) Frankfurt, and it is still supported by both municipal institutions, combining botanical-horticultural knowledge with elementary-level pedagogical experience. An interdisciplinary team of biologists, social education workers, educators, and gardeners jointly develops and conducts the offerings.

The rooms in the Leonhardsbrunn House have been specially designed with the children’s needs in mind. A research station gives kids an opportunity to explore and marvel at the world’s rich flora; play corners provide a variety of materials for building and playing; and the children can actively help prepare meals in a kitchen. A child-friendly garden behind the Leonhardsbrunn House invites young visitors to discover different types of vegetables, fruit trees, and berry bushes along with colorful and fragrant ornamental plants.

The usually three-day-long education programs focus on individual groups of plants, e.g., bamboo, palms, or climbing plants. Discovery tours through the Palmengarten and Botanical Garden, planting actions, experiments, and playful nature exploration form the basis of the educational offers. A frequent change of methodology ensures the three- to six-year-old children’s continued interest and attention. In the course of the three days, the children learn about the typical characteristics and peculiarities of the plants, which animals are associated with and feed on the plants, and how the plants are used by humans. This holistic presentation familiarizes the children with the plants’ ecological, economic, social, and cultural aspects and their importance for humans while at the same time teaching them the value of sustainable development. Preparatory and follow-up seminars for the educational specialists as well as child-parent afternoons supplement the three-day programs. To a lesser degree, the offer includes one-day programs, e.g., covering the topics of aquatic plants, berries, and apples.

During the first three years, the project was supported by three foundations: the German Federal Foundation for the Environment (Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt; DBU), the Airport Frankfurt/Main Foundation for the region, and the Foundation of the Polytechnical Association in Frankfurt am Main.