Florida Botanical Gardens' Majeed Discovery Garden connects children with nature

Emily Goot sees the Florida Botanical Gardens as an urban oasis, 100 acres of nature and trails in the middle of the state’s most densely-populated county.

Goot, executive director of the nonprofit Florida Botanical Gardens Foundation, says a children’s garden has been part of the vision for this natural haven since the Pinellas County-owned garden opened in Largo in late 2000.

That vision became a reality in November with the opening of the Majeed Discovery Garden. 

“When we opened back in 2000, this was already something they wanted to do,” Goot says. “There are some old plans from back then, 23 years ago, for a children’s garden. It has been a long time coming.”

The two-acre children’s garden, located along McKay Creek and adjacent to wetlands and a natural plant buffer, will be a place for hands-on education in horticulture and sustainability and a place where children can play. There is an outdoor classroom, potting beds and a water pump for hands-on horticulture activities. 

The Florida Botanical Gardens fulfilled a longtime vision of adding a children's garden when the Majeed Discovery Garden opened in early November.The Florida Botanical Gardens Foundation, which handles programming and fundraising for the gardens,  has added a full-time children’s garden educator to its staff thanks to a donation from the David Berolzheimer Foundation. Berolzheimer, who passed away in 2019, owned the Bluffs Plaza shopping center on Indian Rocks Road and played a role in the planning of Largo Central Park and the Central Park Performing Arts Center in the 1990s.

Goot says the Majeed garden will host regular educational programming to teach children about horticulture, sustainability and the lifecycle of plants.

“There’s going to be so many opportunities for them to get their hands dirty,” she says. 

There will be school field trips, possibly in conjunction with the neighboring Heritage Village cultural and historical center. But the garden will also be a place for children to get outside for unstructured playtime. The garden’s “pollinator landing” is a climbing structure shaped like a honeycomb that also features a stage with lockers stocked with costumes. Kids will be able to get costumes of their choice and put on impromptu stage performances.

There’s also a “music forest” with life-sized instruments, a “trunk jump” feature where kids can test their balance and agility, bamboo sensory curtains and a set of imagination blocks.
Goot says many of the larger public botanical gardens in the United States feature a children’s garden.

“It’s about stewardship, hoping that the next generation will be interested in not only horticulture but stewardship and sustainability,” she says. “It’s a way to get them interested at a young age and it gives them something to do outdoors as we get to be a more technology-driven society. It’s a place for them to go and just be kids.”

The new children’s garden is named for the Majeed Foundation, established by NexTech CEO and founder Kamal Majeed and his family. The Majeed Foundation, which supports the arts, beautification projects and food programs for the poor, donated $1 million toward the development of the children’s garden.

For more information, go to Majeed Discovery Garden.
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Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry has been a writer for the 83 Degrees Media team since 2017. Chris also served as the development editor for a time before assuming the role of managing editor in May 2022. Chris lives in Clearwater. His professional career includes more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys the local music scene, the warm winters and Tampa Bay's abundance of outdoor festivals and events. When he's not working or spending time with family, he can frequently be found hoofing the trails at one of Pinellas County's nature parks.