Junior explorers get next to nature
It’s early morning and the Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens are alive with birdsong. Baby ducks sail behind their mothers through an old billabong, creating a liquid mandala of concentric rings as they dip their heads under the surface in search of breakfast.
Apart from the buzz and hum of nature it is quiet and impossible to imagine that we are in the middle of the Queensland Gold Coast, minutes away from the snarl of traffic working its way into gridlock. The sun finally bursts through the early morning cloud cover lighting up towering gums, some which are thought to predate European settlement.
It’s school holidays and at the cafe overlooking the gardens Rana Baguley, the education co-ordinator for Friends of the Gold Coast Regional Botanic Gardens, is preparing for an influx of children. Today is Botanica Quest Day, part of an Australia-wide initiative to get kids outside and interacting with nature. The children are doing Botanica Missions. They are given a Nature Play “Passport to an Amazing Childhood” and have a series of missions to complete.
“Our motto is to swap screen time for green time,” Baguley says as she leads me down to her Botanica Mission worm farm by the lagoon. Friends run other educational activities for kids during school holidays such as “What Bird is that?” and “Grow that Plant day”, which teaches children about plant propagation.
I join two families in the native flower garden to find out about the attraction of flowers to different insects and birds. There are stunning grevilleas with flame- coloured tendrils and tiny native orchids. “They’re like oysters,” one of the kids says, and she’s right. The children draw the flowers in their passports and get a stamp to put inside.
“Mission complete,” they say and charge off to the next activity, which is Baguley’s worm farm. She explains how it works — the kids are “grossed out” by the worm poo and wee — and insists the parents listen in as well.
The next mission is finding a butterfly at the butterfly garden. This was built by the Gold Coast Bushwalkers — part of the local community that has done most of the planting of the gardens — and features birdwing vine that has been propagated and