A magical place of imagination and fantasy and where learning meets fun
In June of 2014, the Mississippi Children’s Museum opened its doors to a world of outdoor adventure, creativity and learning when it introduced a much-anticipated outdoor gallery, called The Literacy Garden.
According to Susan Garrard, MCM President and CEO, upon the Garden’s grand opening, “The Literacy Garden is a one-of-a-kind experience for children to cultivate early childhood literacy skills in an exciting, imaginative outdoor environment.”
A statewide collaborative effort between renowned educational and design partners, The Literacy Garden was designed to help develop reading and language skills, specifically during the critical developmental years (ages 0 – 8). Unfortunately, many elementary school-aged children across the state still lag behind grade level in their reading skills. The Garden is a place created to help decrease disparities in literacy among Mississippi’s young students by inspiring their imaginations and fostering a love of reading, creativity and the arts, all in a whimsical setting that makes learning fun.
“At MCM we believe that children need unstructured outdoor playtime as well as opportunities to develop the pre-reading skills that will help them succeed in school and later in life, notes Alicen Blanchard, MCM Exhibits and Special Projects Coordinator.”
At the time of its opening last year, The Literacy Garden featured ten primary installations designed to encourage creative exploration and learning in pre- and emerging readers, through active play.
Topsy-Turvy Pathway: Inscribed with poetry, the path guides children and adults through the garden, introducing them to creative learning and play spaces.
Tall Tale Tree House: A life-sized sculpture, which provides a view of the garden as a whole and serves to focus attention on ecological literacy. It is part naturalistic representation of a Bald Cypress Tree, and part futuristic canopy created from steel beams.
Dancing Waters Waterfall: An immense waterfall, which releases droplets of water that form visible falling words.
Fairytale Mushroom Forest: A field of electronic mushrooms offering interactive storytelling experiences within the hidden space under the mushroom cap, designed to encourage active listening.
Sound Story Sculpture: A series of interactive sculptural pillars, evoking nature, fantasy and language, which creates an immersive soundscape for children to explore. Motion activated sensors within the pillars activate distinct sounds in relation to a child’s height, movement or location in the grid.
Act it Out Amphitheater: The garden’s public forum, this sunken, six-tiered arena can be used for storytelling, performances and group activities.
Desert Island Exploration: A series of age-targeted sand circles facilitate free play. Located just in front of the waterfall, these circles will encourage exploration of water, sound and nature, and allow toddlers to play safely, but inclusively.
Creativity Wall: Spanning along one side of the garden, this element offers a blank “dry erase” canvas for writing, drawing and imaginative story telling.
Work of Art Writing Stations: Nature-inspired tables and stools weave through the shade trees offering children a place to write or draw, and serve as an activity space for museum programs.
Interactive Outdoor Learning Lab: This mobile lab will serve as the hub for all outdoor programming in the garden, providing storage for program supplies and access to water and power.
This spring, The Literacy Garden launches a new program called, Know to Grow, which will be presented every Saturday morning at 10:00 from March 7 through August 22. As they sit in the Seedling Circle, children and families will listen to a story and participate in a garden activity. Young gardeners will learn types of plants, what they need to grow, the “good” and “bad” types of bugs and more.
“MCM’s Literacy Garden provides a unique opportunity for children to develop their own narrative through unstructured outdoor play. It inspires and fosters a readiness for and love of reading, and builds a strong foundation for a child’s development of language skills,” adds Ms. Blanchard.
The first step in learning to read is being excited about stories, and one of the best places to create stories and be inspired is in the outdoors. The Literacy Garden combines both in a fantastic, inspiring space for Mississippi’s children.
To learn more about the Mississippi Children’s Museum, its other initiatives and how to join the fun, visit www.mschildrensmuseum.com.