The Washington Youth Garden at the National Arboretum

Washington Youth Garden, located on the grounds of the National Arboretum, seeks to foster curious minds and healthy bodies by connecting youth to food, the land, and each other.

We hosted over 4300 students through our field trip program this year, and our Nature Explore Classroom remains a popular chance for students to creatively explore and play. We often know that visitors have been to our garden before because their first question off the bus is “Can we go to the playground?!” Once there, they flood the stage to perform their favorite songs and dances, and turn over logs to discover all of the insects and fungi living in the soil.

The NEC also continues to be a “hidden gem” destination for local families. Home school groups, families with infants, and birthday parties regularly take advantage of the extensive log and stump balancing area, and kids eagerly search for sticks to act as mallets for the marimba and steel drum. Parents can chat while their kids explore the sandbox or use trowels to dig for works in our digging box.

When a nearby tree had to be cut down we added a part of its trunk to our NEC, but this year was largely one of maintaining the recent additions to the space. While we had to say goodbye to some aging stumps, they continue to serve along our nature trail as lessons in decomposition. And that’s one of the things we love most about our Nature Explore Classroom- it encourages youth and adults alike to think and act creatively about all of the elements we encounter within it.