The Arboretum at Penn State

Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden

(Partially Funded)

There are opportunities for naming structural features in the Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden, as well as pieces of art and other special elements that would enrich the learning environment in the garden.

Transformation Canopy (naming opportunity) at entrance

Transformation Canopy at entrance

Color and water greet visitors at the garden entrance—a “transformative” passage between two pools filled with water lilies and beneath a translucent canopy that casts shadows of yellow, orange, and green. With a name that echoes the lyrics of the Penn State alma mater, the Childhood’s Gate Entry Court welcomes families and school classes with a dynamic water feature and stone structures that showcase the geology of central Pennsylvania.

  • Entrance Pools (funded)
  • Bedrock Boulders (funded)
  • Transformation Canopy (funded)
  • Spring Basin (funded)
  • Stone Bench (funded)
  • Rock Planter/Seat walls (2) (funded)
Harvest Garden beds in Central Valley

Garden Plots/Harvest Gardens (foreground); Gathering Lawn and Amphitheater (background)

Central Valley introduces visitors to historical patterns of land use by featuring a child-scale “prairie”; huts made of woven willow that simulate a Susquehannock encampment; and contemporary vegetable garden beds, a sod-roofed shed, and a charming greenhouse. An old-fashioned farm pump invites children to learn how to draw water from a well. A small amphitheater and Aspen Story Circle offer venues for educational presentations, musical performances, and other programming.

  • Central Valley ($200,000)
  • Bronze Resting Buffalo (funded)
  • Glass House ($150,000)
  • Amphitheater ($50,000)
  • Garden Plots (Harvest Gardens) & Forecourt ($35,000)
  • Aspen Story Circle (funded)
  • Gathering Lawn ($25,000)
  • Prairie Patch (funded)
  • Susquehannock Camp (funded)
  • Wooden Bridge/Boardwalk ($20,000)
  • Garden Shed (funded)
Limestone Cave

Limestone Cave

Following In and Out Creek, visitors discover the Limestone Cave, an enormous cave featuring stalactites, a colony of bronze bat sculptures, and even a secret passageway. In this playful, multi-level space, children can explore the subterranean world that is a vitally important feature of our limestone valleys. Elements such as an elevated “sinkhole” through which water falls into the Limestone Cave provide occasions for important science lessons about the connection between the subterranean world and the surface habitat that it supports. In and Out Creek (funded)

  • Limestone Cave ($200,000)
Two larger-than-life fossil sculptures

Two larger-than-life fossil sculptures

The prehistory of central Pennsylvania is on display in this area. Children can learn about the plants and animals that lived in Pennsylvania hundreds of millions of years ago—and even walk on a spiral “timeline” identifying key developments in the evolution of plants. Fossil sculptures accent sunken gardens and circular spaces intended for both group and individual reading.

  • Fossil Gap ($200,000)
  • Time Spiral (funded)
  • Fossil Sculptures (funded)
  • Reading Circles/Caterpillar Bench (funded)
  • Window Seat/Bird Outlook (funded)
  • Rock Planter/Seat Walls (3) (funded)
Glass House and Harvest Gardens

Glass House and Harvest Gardens

A Glass House anchors the northern end of Central Valley. The southern exposure for the Glass House forecourt and the vegetable garden creates a sunny space for children to engage in cultivation. A sod-roofed tool shed, hand pumps, and space to make scarecrows, plant seedlings, carve pumpkins, and harvest flowers and vegetables is provided. The forecourt of the Glass House includes an interactive water pump evocative of the local agrarian landscape.

The Glass House itself will extend the season of use in the garden by offering opportunities for late fall, early winter, and early spring activities. It will serve as a sheltered, warm spot for cold weather activities such as building bird houses and bird feeders, making terrariums, and starting seeds in early spring. The shape, orientation, and materials of the Glass House will help children understand the power of the sun’s energy and how it can be harvested.

  • Glass House ($150,000)
Mushroom grouping near Discovery Tree

Mushroom grouping near Discovery Tree

The University’s long-established leaders in the fields of forestry and mycology have helped to guide the design of this space, which recreates the woodland environment of the mountains surrounding Nittany Valley. Visitors can explore the Discovery Tree, meet a giant caterpillar, or rest on a toadstool seat. Sculptures and seating are nestled underneath trees selected to represent our native forests.

  • Mushroom Hollow ($200,000)
  • Discovery Tree (funded)
  • Mushroom Sculptures & Seating (funded)
Discovery Tree in Mushroom Hollow

Discovery Tree in Mushroom Hollow

In the northernmost corner of the Childhood’s Gate Children’s Garden, on its highest point, a gargantuan tree stump sits near a ring of mushrooms. The hollowed-out stump (into which visitors can walk) is a discovery space inviting children to explore its interior. Attached to the inside wall is a musical instrument (chimes) and children can peek outside through several holes in the sides. Extending out from the tree is a large root, under which visitors can pass. At the far end of the root is an opening to a “sound tube” into which children can call to their friends who will hear their voices emanating from an opening inside the trunk.

Bronze bat sculptures created for Limestone Cave

Bronze bat sculptures created for Limestone Cave

(ranging from $1,000 – $10,000) Most of the art pieces will be made of materials such as ceramic, stone, and bronze. Once a donor expresses interest in a feature, the Arboretum will work with the contractor to estimate the cost and identify a location for the piece.

  • Hand Pump (funded)
  • Musical Instruments (funded)
  • Animal Faces (funded)
  • Shell Bench (funded)
  • Ceramic Micro-Organisms—3D Fossils (funded)
  • Black Snake (funded)
  • Hanging Bat (Bronze) ($500 per bat)(14 needed – 14 funded)
  • Salamanders
  • Bronze Animals—Native Pennsylvania species: Eastern Wild Turkey ($5,000)
    Resting Buffalo (funded), Black Bear
  • Support for children’s educational programs