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Exploring the Denver Botanic Gardens

It was a memorable day of outdoor learning for fourth-grade students at Landmark Academy at Reunion, which has outperformed the local district for the past 13 years. They recently spent a day exploring the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Nora Pearson was one of the teachers leading the excursion. She explained that the field trip was carefully planned to align with the curriculum, emphasizing the study of plants, animals, and ecosystems, as well as the intricate relationships that exist within these environments.

“There's only so much you can do within a classroom,” stated Pearson. “I can talk about plants and animals in a classroom, but for them to see it in person helped them make important connections.”

The scholars took part in the Discovery Program, where they were guided through the gardens and introduced to a variety of educational stations. The stations were strategically located, giving students the opportunity to explore while doing hands-on learning activities.

One of the activities that left a lasting impression on students was "Pollinators." Students learned about the world of moths, hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and bats. The station delved into what the creatures ate, and scholars had a front row seat. This was a great example of how the students were able to connect what they learned in the classroom to real life.

"Patterns in Nature" was also a big hit. Here, they looked through a magnifying glass at pictures of butterflies, discovering the intricate scales that cover their wings.

Students also enjoyed a hands-on activity about the “Pumpkin Life Cycle.” They had fun learning about the big orange gourd while arranging pictures showing the life cycle of a pumpkin. 

The Denver Botanic Gardens is known for its vast collection of trees, and students had the opportunity to learn about tree populations and how they reproduce.

“They had items like acorns, pinecones, and tree stumps that the kids were able to look at, hold, and touch,” said Pearson. “The students also had the chance to walk through a massive greenhouse filled with trees and plants that couldn’t grow naturally in the gardens. It was like a tropical rainforest.”

After two hours of learning at various stations, students enjoyed a well-deserved lunch break, followed by free time to explore the gardens independently. Some went on a scavenger hunt, while others visited the sensory garden.

“The kids were able to go into that garden where they could feel and smell different things,” she said. “There was also a kaleidoscope where they could see different patterns, which was a great hands-on experience for them.”

When asked about the students’ favorite part of the trip, Pearson shared that it was the hands-on experiences and the excitement of seeing everything they had learned about in school come to life.

“They would come running up to me and say, ‘I touched this cactus,’ or ‘I saw the same flowers my parents planted at home.’ They were able to connect it back to their own lives while experiencing it for themselves.”

The feedback from students and educators was overwhelmingly positive. “Without a doubt, I would do this again. It was so fun for all of us,” exclaimed Pearson.

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About Landmark Academy at Reunion 
Landmark Academy at Reunion is a tuition-free, public charter school in Commerce City, Colorado, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

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