Family Fun Days provide opportunities to connect with nature at Rotary Gardens

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Shelly Birkelo
Sunday, August 11, 2013

JANESVILLE—Rotary Botanical Gardens is an outdoor living classroom,said Kris Koch, education coordinator.

That's why the award-winning 20-acre, nonprofit botanic showcase with 4,000 varieties of plants is inviting families to connect with nature during its annual Family Fun Days, which continue Wednesday and Sunday, Aug. 14 and 18.

Koch said families and children can spend time together outdoors while enjoying these interactive experiences:

Backpack adventures: These self-guided adventures provide experiences for children in two different age groups. Children kindergarten and younger will use a penguin-shaped backpack that has a map, magnifying glass and activities book to explore and interact with nature. First graders and older will get a discover backpack with a bird field guide, binoculars and worksheet to explore different bird habitats.

Exploration stations: Kids will get to dig in the dirt, find worms and feel the roots of a variety of vegetables in areas in the gardens that will feature a variety of hands-on activities.

I Spy challenges: Families will get to tap into all of their senses, except taste, while exploring the gardens. They'll get to watch a koi fish, hear a bird sing, touch something soft and smell herbs.

Creative make and take projects: Participants will get to make bees out of paper and wax and cutout butterflies and caterpillars while learning about the steps of metamorphosis.

Face painting and bubbles: Dozens of creative volunteers will paint butterflies and other insects on children's faces or arms.

Story Walk in the new Rainbow Garden: Mercy Health System is teaming up with Rotary Gardens and Hedberg Public Library to host its first Super Kids! event that celebrates the benefits of good nutrition, outdoor exercise and lifelong learning, Koch said.

Super Eaters plus Super Movers plus Super Thinkers equal Super Kids, is the slogan for this Sunday, Aug. 18, free event that encourages better eating, exercise, confidence and lifelong learning for children of all ages.

Lois Ehlert, author of “Planting a Rainbow,” will read and sign books from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. The children's book encourages kids to make the right choices and tap into their own inner super hero.

The Giant Garden: Big plants, in a variety of colors and textures, such as tall grasses, elephant ears, cannas and papyrus create a jungle-like atmosphere that will make everyone feel little again. Cutout sides on the wooden obelisk allow children to enter this giant beanstalks covered “cave.”

Pollinators Paradise: The Nancy Yahr Memorial Children's Garden features this new theme that focuses on flowers and nectar plants. Children will be attracted to the root-viewing box where they can see the roots of carrots, beets and radishes growing. They'll also get to participate in Fishing for Facts with a fishing pole.

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