Smithsonian Gardens in Washington, DC provides educational experiences

The Smithsonian Gardens located in Washington, D.C. are not only beautiful, but they also provide wonderful educational opportunities for children in grades K-12.  The gardens provide living plant displays in addition to exhibitions.  Educators and parents will also be able to take advantage of outreach initiatives that include lectures, garden tours, interpretive labels, online student materials, guided cell phone tours, and backpack tours and trunk programs.

Garden tours

Garden tours are generally offered from May to September.  One such tour is of the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, located between the Arts and Industries Building and the Hirshorn Museum.  Adults and children alike may also choose to tour the Enid A. Haupt Garden.  Tours of this garden are provided most Wednesdays and those wishing to attend should meet near the Castle doors at the South entrance.  The Heirloom and Victory Gardens are found at the National Museum of American History.  Tours of these gardens are offered every other Thursday from June to September.  Last, but not least, is the Butterfly Habitat that is located at the National Museum of Natural History.  Horticulturists will be on hand to detail the plants that are found in this lively garden.  Visitors may participate in this tour offered virtually every Thursday from June to September.

Garden Fest

The Smithsonian Gardens holds an annual Garden Fest that is perfect for families.  Each garden is highlighted during this wonderful event that includes interesting hands-on activities in addition to educational demonstrations.  Garden Fest is located at the Enid A. Haupt Garden at the end of spring each year.

Educational materials

These fantastic gardens also offer online educational materials that will be very useful to parents and educators.  Students will be able to learn about orchids and their habitats with the help of “Discovering Orchids: A Guide for Families.” 

Another great resource is: “Foods from the Western Hemisphere Plants” which contains a crossword puzzle that allows children to learn about plants that are grown for food. 

If hoping to teach about seeds, then the “Grow a Bean Buddy” activity will be perfect.  It will allow children to not only learn about seeds, but also about what they need to germinate such as sunlight, water, and nutrients. 

For history buffs, there is the “Grow Your Own Victory Garden” activity.  Students will find advice on how to grow a vegetable garden like the ones that might have been found during World War II. 

Many students enjoy learning about butterflies and will love to know the information contained in the “How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden” reference found online.  Students will not only learn about the Smithsonian’s Butterfly Habitat Garden, but they will also find out which plants are good host plants and nectar plants for butterflies at different stages of their life.

Plant passport

Plant Passports were originally only offered during Garden Fest, but now they may be completed at any time.  Students will have fun while learning as they research different plants and then record information into their passports.

Fact sheets

The Smithsonian Gardens also offer educational fact sheets online.  One of these fact sheets provides information about the beauty of butterflies and their mesmerizing transformation.  Students may also choose to learn more about orchids with the “Orchid Diversity” fact sheet.  Even adults will be interested to learn about the many different types of orchids, where they live, and also how to successfully keep them.  Lastly, there is a fact sheet about plants in general that will cover varieties such as bromeliads, African violets, chrysanthemums, tropical plants that may be grown indoors, ferns, poinsettias, and ornamental grasses.

Whether visiting the Smithsonian Gardens for a tour, enjoying Garden Fest, or taking advantage of their wonderful online materials, students and educators are sure to have fun while learning a lot about plants thanks to the Smithsonian Institution.