Get your children in the mood for school at the zoo

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

If you are looking for a quick educational road trip to get your children in the mood for the upcoming school year, think about taking a drive to The Biedenharn Museum and Gardens in Monroe, La., to see the wonderful zoo garden.

Based on the book written by Chris Hastings and illustrated by Janet Hamlin titled &uot;The Zoo Garden: 40 Animal-Named Plants Kids Can Grow Themselves,&uot; the exhibit takes place throughout the ELsong Garden and will continue for several more weeks.

Children are presented with a sheet of 50 stickers (the Biedenharn garden staff came up with 10 more plants) and a map of the garden. Each sticker has a picture of an animal and underneath is listed the name of a corresponding plant. For example, under the cat, the plant commonly called cat’s whiskers is listed.

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As children walk through the garden and conservatory they come across some of the different plants on the stickers, depending of course on what is in season. After identifying a plant as one in the zoo garden, the child places the sticker on the appropriate spot on the map.

During my visit last week I managed to find quite a few of the plants on the list. One of my favorite aspects of the garden is that as you come across any of the zoo plants that are blooming, a sign has been placed next to it which shows the animal that the plant is named after. This makes it fun and easy to see why each plant included is named after a certain animal.

Zoo plants I saw on my visit included spider flower (Cleome), bat face cuphea, snake plant (Sansaveria), staghorn fern, bee balm, bird-of-paradise, butterfly bush, elephant’s ears and ponytail palm. As the seasons change, the exhibit is sure to also. In the next few weeks the spider lilies (Lycoris) will no doubt be in flower.

While older children enjoy finding the plants for the zoo animal sticker map, pre-school children may check out a colorful basket filled with animal puppets and help them find their names in the garden.

Being that the Biedenharn family was the first to bottle Coca-Cola in Vicksburg and later moved the operation to Monroe, you can expect enjoy your visit in the old-fashioned way with an ice cold nickel Coke out of shiny machine from yesteryear.

The zoo garden exhibit, as well as any others is free and the staff is fabulous in making you feel welcome and relaxed. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday from 2 to 5 pm. Located at 2006 Riverside Drive, the museum and gardens are easy to find.

For more information call the museum at (318) 387-5281 or (800) 362-0983 or e-mail bmuseum The museum is also listed at


Traci Maier