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Home Front: Children's Garden Is SOL-Ready

by Amy Biegelsen

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"Some of the kid-friendly stuff is related to the Standards of Learning," says Tom Brinda, assistant director at Lewis Ginter. That's right, the SOLs that dictate what material students are responsible for learning at each grade level. Lewis Ginter estimates it gets 15,000 students visiting each year, and with the new garden, that figure is expected to increase. The Children's Garden wants to complement the state curriculum, especially for kindergarten through fourth grades.

For example, according to the SOLs for science, second- graders are required to "investigate and understand" that plants are sources of useful products and that the kinds of plant products that are available affect an area's development.

In the garden's "international village," a cluster of cabins meant to evoke the architecture of different countries and cultures, original plans called for small, attractive beds. With a nod to the SOLs, Brinda replaced those beds with plants that would have been used to make food, fiber and medicine in a particular culture.

"The Powhatan Indian longhouse now has native grapes, elderberries and Juneberries," Brinda says. The decision to represent hardier agricultural plant life meant the village had to move to the eastern edge of the garden. "If you're going to grow coffee and bananas," like the South American house does, Brinda says, "you'll need full sun."

Access for all children was another priority for the garden planners. In addition to the tree house with a ramped entrance in the original plan, Brinda added raised beds in the vegetable garden to give access to children in wheelchairs.

"We learn by playing at that age," Brinda says. "So we've given maximum opportunity to play."

The Children's Garden will open to the public the weekend of Sept. 24-25. To learn more, call (804) 262-9887 or visit www.lewisginter.org.

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