Aug 21st, 2015

Mother Nature to the Rescue

Rome wasn’t built in a day. But last week in the Children’s Garden an entire river town was created, destroyed by pollution and erosion and then rebuilt to withstand those same destructive forces. It took less than an hour.

The architects, city planners and construction crews were part of Green Adventure Summer Camp: Nature Expeditions, led by Garden educator Kevin Ratliff. They called themselves Team Narwhal. And by the end of the week, they had learned how critical plants and trees are in protecting our environment from the forces of erosion and pollution.

Watch it happen:

virgin riverbed

Ground zero: the virgin riverbed awaits construction.

original build

Construction: Lego bricks, popsicle sticks and toothpicks serve as improvised building materials.


Pollution: oil spill (soy sauce) and a chemical dump (corn meal) ravage the pristine riverbank.

rain can

Release: torrential rains at the headwaters begin their destructive journey downstream.


Aftermath: the town lies in ruins.


Resurrection: the town is rebuilt incorporating grass (felt squares) to anchor riverbanks and keep them from dissolving into the passing waterway. Tree roots (potted plants) reinforce the landscape and absorb pollutants, filtering out harmful chemicals.


Success: now defended by Mother Nature, the town withstands a second flood.

The Lesson: nature will protect herself. If we let her.

“Because play is one of the best mediums for learning,” Kevin said “finding innovative and fun-filled activities to engage and educate students at the Children’s Garden is always a top priority.  Creating the River Town was a big hit.  Not only did the campers build and demolish an entire community; but they also learned about humanity’s impact on nature, brainstormed strategies for eco-friendly land management, and put their ideas to the test for rebuilding the River Town.  Hopefully, these are concepts and principles they will carry with them into the future, whether they become architects and city planners or are simply applying these land management practices to their own homes.  As for now, who can deny the fun of playing with water, sand and Legos?”

Green Adventure Summer Camp: Nature Expeditions returns to the Garden in the summer of 2016 if you want try your hand at conservation.




Volunteer Susan Higgins writes about what she learns and loves in the Garden.

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