As you passed by the UF Health Shands Hospital main entrance over the past several months, you may have noticed a large construction area and wondered what we are building next. It’s going to be our UF Health Children’s Healing Garden, a special addition to benefit patients, families and visitors.
Our healing garden follows the Nature Explore® concept, which creates dynamic, nature-based play and learning spaces that apply research-based, field-tested design principles. Nature Explore is a program of the Dimensions Educational Research Foundation, and UF Health Shands will be the second health care facility and the first hospital in the Certified Nature Explore® Classroom network.
“We have a long history of innovation and advancement in the care of children,” said Shelley Collins, M.D., associate chief medical officer for UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. “As the first and only hospital with a Certified Nature Explore® Classroom, we expect to be some of the first to advance our understanding of the impact of nature on the health and wellbeing of hospitalized children.”
The garden is a one-of-a-kind resource designed to uplift the spirits of our patients and families through distraction, relaxation and physical activity. This distinctive environment complements the superb medical care provided at our UF Health hospitals by promoting healing and wellness through connection with nature.
The garden includes walking paths, butterfly gardens, a relaxation area with seating, raised gardening beds and interactive areas for children of all ages to engage in unstructured exploratory play. The concrete paths in our wheeled toy and open areas are stamped with animal prints and leaves. The wheeled toy area gives children a chance to develop their muscles, and the open area allows children to run, dance and play.
“Our goal is to offer a place to relieve stress, improve mental well-being and provide an opportunity for patients to leave the indoor hospital environment,” Collins said. “By giving children and families a place to connect with nature, we hope to revitalize and renew their energy and strength.”
The end of construction is near, and the grand opening of the garden will take place this spring. We are excited and thank all of our amazing partners on this journey. This would not have been possible without the generosity of Bob and Janet Raven; the local chapters of the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association; the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service; and the National Environmental Education Foundation.