By Herb Sparrow
Franklin Park Conservatory
“There are several different ways people can integrate experiential programs into a tour,” said Kingston.
“The most popular is an opportunity to blow your own glass in our live glassblowing shop. You usually make a specific project; it’s very popular around holiday time, with ornaments that are really easy for beginners.”
The pizza-cooking class evolved from a four-acre community garden campus the conservatory opened three years ago. “The concept was to be a resource for community gardeners to see and learn,” said Kingston. “It has become a place housing a lot of educational programs.
“One feature is a live fire cooking theater, a plaza with five different ways food is prepared over wood. One is a wood[-fired] pizza oven. You choose toppings and flavors right from the garden.”
Groups make dough and sauce from scratch, learn how to make and stretch fresh mozzarella, cut and prepare toppings, and bake their creations in the wood-fired oven.
Other hands-on options for groups include the basics of floral design, in which they create a flower arrangement to take home, build a two-gallon terrarium, design a living wreath of drought-tolerant succulent plants and make a container garden.
Kingston said there are several immersion programs for larger groups, one of which is a program on the care of orchids. “Sometimes it can be arranged to pot or repot orchids,” she said. “We have a bonsai collection that we can interpret, and we have an art tour. We have a lot of public art, and the docent-led tours go through the indoor and outdoor spaces.”