Creating ‘Nearby Nature' in Schoolyards & Backyards

The Arboretum's education facility, the Marion Andrus Learning Center, is surrounded by demonstration plantings and features that show innovative ways to engage children with plants and nature in their everyday lives. They present a rich array of ideas to inspire fresh thinking about using plants to draw children and families outside to learn and play.

Learning Habitats for Schoolyards
The Learning Habitats for Schoolyards are four options for simple, low-maintenance plantings to install at schools for ready access to hands-on learning and direct links to classroom curricula in science, geography and nutrition.


Garden for Birds
Planting of evergreen trees and berried shrubs to attract birds by providing food, cover and sites and materials for nesting. Features bird feeders, bird blind and dead tree habitat. Links to Cornell Lab of Ornithology Classroom Feeder Watch.

Prairie Planting
Diverse planting of Minnesota prairie grasses and wildflowers for active learning about native plants and their insect pollinators. Features plants that attract and feed butterflies and their larvae. Links to Monarch Watch curriculum.


Garden to Greet Spring
Spring-blooming bulbs, shrubs and fall-flowering perennials for outdoor learning both spring and fall. Uses perennial bulbs with long bloom season and naturalizing ability, and option for annual tulip planting to link with Journey North internet-based curriculum.

Raised Beds
Aboveground planter boxes for schools with poor or contaminated soil, or simply for easy organization and access for many classes. Wide variety of planting choices, easily modified as curriculum changes. Link to GrowLab and LifeLab curricula.

Under the Oak Nature Play Area
Sheltered by a majestic tree, Under the Oak is a place for children and families to play in and with nature. Cones, sticks, branch slices and other loose bits are endlessly reused for forts, dens, tea-parties, puppets, nature collages and other creative play. Features built from natural materials and designed to activate young imaginations include willow-woven entry tunnels, puppet stage, fort-building area, elf village, log seating, large toadstool and hideout. Continually reinvented by its visitors, Under the Oak has appeal across a wide range of ages, with opportunities for both cooperative and individual play.