Atmosphere

Upgrade: Step Outside

Can a new children's garden cure nature deficit disorder?

August 2010

This month's opening of the Denver Botanic Gardens' $3.3 million Mordecai Children's Garden aims to reconnect kids to nature, in response to a growing national problem that's led to a rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression among today's youth. The three-acre garden highlights Colorado's ecosystems, from mountain ranges to prairies to forests, and includes a rushing stream and a beaver dam. The design encourages unstructured play, so kids can dig in the dirt, soak up the wetlands, and get lost in the grasslands at their leisure. "We want kids to understand that Colorado is blessed by outdoor experiences," says Botanic Gardens CEO Brian Vogt, "and to seek them out." —Lisa Wirthman