Tag Archives: scavenger hunt

4 Scavenger Hunts for Rose Gardens

Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden

'About Face' in Balboa Park

I like rose gardens. Last Friday I spent my lunch sitting in the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden in Balboa Park embracing the sun and testing my will power at sitting still as bees enjoyed those roses closest to me. I don’t particularly like roses, especially in full bloom, but I love rose gardens. I love the repetition, funny names, bright colors, maze-like arrangements, perfumed breezes, and the opportunities for creative learning experiences.

A couple of years ago, I developed a series of activities for family engagement in rose gardens. These activities, along with activities for many of the other gardens and museums of Balboa Park, are part of the Balboa Park Family Activity Guide* – see additional details below. I have updated these original activities and included them here. Enjoy!

1. There are 35 types of roses. For simplicity and brevity, I have chosen five that I feel are the easiest to recognize and most common. Review the types listed below and try to find one of each at your local rose garden. Record the names and draw an example in a field notebook or get a photograph of each to add to your field notebook. This can be done with teams looking for one of each or individually with each person looking for a different variety (to be collected and combined into one notebook).

  • hybrid teas consist of one large bloom on a long stem used for cut flowers
  • floribundas or “many flowering” are low-growing and produce clusters of blooms
  • grandifloras or “large flowering” are tall-growing with a single bloom or cluster
  • ramblers or climbing roses have arching branches for covering walls or fences
  • miniatures have much smaller blooms and stems which are perfect for hanging baskets

2. Flowers are great for macro photography practice. Grab your camera for a photo scavenger hunt. Look for as many colors of roses as you can find or focus on the shapes you can find of a single color.

3. The names of the roses can be entertaining for both kids and adults. Have fun reading their unique names and brainstorming how they came to be. This makes for great story starters. Can you find a rose name for each letter of the alphabet?

4. Look for roses with characteristics listed below. Can you think of any other clues?

Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden

'Gourmet Popcorn' in Balboa Park

  • a type of food in its name
  • the longest name
  • a human name
  • an insect on it
  • the silliest name
  • two or more roses with a common word in the name
  • an adjective in the name

*The Balboa Park Family Activity Guide was created by the Informal Curriculum Experiences (ICE) committee made up of Balboa Park educators. This free guide is a collection of hands-on activities for families to complete throughout the Park and can be picked up at the Visitors Center.

Explore Math, Photography and Observation Skills at your Local Botanic Garden


I like botanic gardens.
With assorted plant species, winding paths, infinite colors, and interesting creatures, botanic gardens can easily meet the expectations of everyone in your family. Gardens can be mysterious places to explore, quiet spaces to reflect and relax, a photographer’s playground, a laboratory for learning and much more.

Here are a few botanic gardens I have visited:

  • San Diego Botanic Garden
    In addition to 2 children’s gardens, there are 37 acres and 4 miles of trails to explore at this Encinitas attraction. For my ideas on visiting the Hamilton Children’s Garden, check out my playgrounds post.

    Balboa Park Botanical Building

  • Balboa Park Botanical Building
    This building is one of the largest lath structures in the world. Together with the Lily Pond that lies directly in front of it, this area is the most photographed in the park.
  • The Huntington
    San Marino, California
    In addition to a library, art galleries and tea room, there are more than a dozen themed gardens spanning 120 acres at The Huntington.
    For more ideas on visiting The Huntington, check out my repetition and playgrounds posts.
  • Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
    This garden is a great place to explore on a hot day, and dogs are permitted too. Ask for a mystery scavenger hunt especially for kids.
  • Lotusland, Santa Barbara
    Exploration of this garden is by tour only, but groups are kept small and families are grouped together to provide the most enjoyable experience.

    Conservatory of Flowers

  • Conservatory of Flowers
    San Francisco
    Located in Golden Gate Park, this iconic piece of architecture is the oldest wood and glass conservatory in North America.


Try This:
1. Grab a camera for macro photography practice. This is a great activity for children and adults alike. Each season offers different subjects, so visit often and compare photos throughout the year.

2. Enhance observation skills with a scavenger hunt or I Spy. How many shades of green can you find? What shapes do you see in the cacti? What is the most unusual plant name you read?

3. Pick up a garden map and have the kids plan the visit. Will you start at the desert or topiary garden? How will you get there? Introduce or reinforce the concept of cardinal directions.

4. Draw a visual representation of your visit. Use a ruler to measure from the entrance of the botanic garden to your first stop of the visit. Hint, if the path isn’t straight, try a string or piece of yarn to measure the distance against a ruler. Record, then measure the distance to the next stop of the visit. Create a scale for the map or write about your visit using these measurements.

5. Explore patterns by designing a dream garden. Create a blueprint for your garden. Instead of a tissue paper Christmas wreath, use those same materials (colored tissue paper, glue, pencil with eraser and paper plate) to create a pattern of tissue paper flowers for your garden. First, cut the tissue paper into various sized squares. Next, wrap and twist one piece of tissue paper around the eraser end of a pencil. Then, dip the flat side into the glue and tap the paper plate where you want to place the tissue paper. Finally, release the paper and remove the pencil. Repeat until the entire plate is covered.

Check out this great blog for 10 children’s books about gardening.

Art Museums that Incorporate Interactive Exhibitions

I like art museums, especially those with interactive spaces for kids. My previous post introduced 14 ways to engage kids at an art museum, but some museums take on this challenge themselves by providing art trading cards, scavenger hunts, family backpacks, children’s audio tours, or family guides. It is always worth asking museum staff about special resources and activities created specifically for families visiting the museum.

There are a number of art museums that have incorporated entire galleries of interactive experiences for kids and families. Here are interactive art museum spaces I have visited.

  • Dayton Art Institute (Ohio) – Experiencenter
  • Getty Center (Los Angeles, California) – Family Room
  • Mint Museum Uptown (Charlotte, North Carolina) – Lewis Family Gallery
  • Santa Barbara Museum of Art (California) – Children’s Gallery
  • Skirball Cultural Center (Los Angeles, California) – Noah’s Ark

If visiting an art museum is not in your foreseeable future, check out one of these interactive art museum websites for kids.

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child”
– Pablo Picasso

14 Ways to Visit an Art Museum

I like art museums. When I first made the transition from teaching to informal museum education, I was specifically interested in art museums. I wanted to teach families how to connect with the artwork by creating hands-on interactives for hands-off museums.

Here are 14 ideas to enhance engagement at art museums:

1. First, visit the museum store to buy a postcard featuring artwork currently on view – at least one postcard per family member. Ask a staff member for recommendations or to confirm that the chosen postcards are accessible in the gallery. Then, find the piece of art from the postcard in the gallery. Once you find the postcard artwork, try activity 2, 3, 4 or 5 on the back.

2. Imagine you have become a part of the artwork. Use your senses to describe what you can see, smell, hear, taste and touch.

3. List the materials used to create the artwork – this is especially good for contemporary art museums.

4. Write a poem about the artwork you selected – use sensory words from #2 or materials from #3.

5. Create a subtitle or caption for the artwork.

6. Have family members search the museum for the painting, sculpture or object that best represents themselves. Take turns sharing everyone’s choices or try to guess.

7. Scavenger hunts…before you go, make a list of items based on a theme below. Try to find all the items on your list in the art throughout the museum.

  • Animals
  • Colors
  • Countries (where the art was created)
  • Food
  • Letters
  • Materials (used to create the art)
  • Opposites
  • Rhymes
  • Shapes
  • Sports
  • Weather

8. Choose one category from above, or come up with your own, and track the number of times you find items from that category in the art. For example, how many dogs can you spy throughout the museum?

9. Break into two teams, and explore different galleries. Write down interesting objects you find in the artwork, like a blue vase or ice skates. Trade lists and explore the opposite gallery with your new scavenger hunt.

10. Compare two paintings or objects that are side by side in the gallery. What is the same? What is different?

11. Imitate the pose, expressions, and body movements of the sculptures in the museum. Remember, no touching!

12. Find a portrait. What do you know about the person depicted in the artwork? Create a biography for this person based on clothing, facial features, the setting, and other objects in the piece of art.

13. Imagine yourself as a character in a painting. Interview another person in the painting. Draw a comic or filmstrip of the interview.

14. Create an ABC art book or chart. Find an artist, title, material, subject or object in the art for each letter of the alphabet. Write the word or a description for each letter. Revisit your trip and share memories at home as you add images for each letter.

What is your favorite way to explore an art museum?