The Michigan 4-H Children's Gardens have been operating since 1993. All of the 4-H Children's Gardens are made up of small theme gardens and theme areas. Our theme gardens are located in three distinct garden areas:

  • Outdoor 4-H Children's Garden - just less than 2/3 of an acre.
  • Indoor 4-H Children's Garden - 1500 square feet.
  • Pete & Sally Smith Schoolyard Demonstration Garden - 2500 square feet.

Here are some important dates for the 4-H Children's Gardens:

  • 1987: Jane Taylor had the idea for a public children's garden and began the initial planning.
  • 1993: Grand Opening and Dedication of the Horticulture Gardens, including the 4-H Children's Garden (August).
  • 1996: First 4-H Children's Garden web site:
  • 1997: Jane Taylor, Founding Curator retires.
  • 1997: Dr. Norm Lownds hired as Curator. Started work in July.
  • 2001: Kidstour web site launched.
  • 2001: Host for the National Children & Youth Garden Symposium.
  • 2004: Seeds of Science program.
  • 2004: Indoor 4-H Children's Garden opens (May).
  • 2006: Pete & Sally Smith Schoolyard Demonstration Garden opened.
  • 2008: 15th anniversary celebration.
  • 2008: On-line Wonder Wall launched.
  • 2009: Number of kids through our programs exceeds 10,000.
  • 2010: Launched Jr. Plant Scientist program with the US Botanic Garden and the American Horticultural Society.
  • 2010: Launched Collaborating Classrooms program.
  • 2011: Host for National Children & Youth Garden Symposium.
  • 2011: Introduced QR Codes into the garden learning experiences.
  • 2012: iPads for the Garden.
  • 2016: Permanent bathrooms in the garden.
  • 2016: Collaborating Classrooms with Mayville Elementary.
  • 2018: 25th Anniversary!
  • 2019: New Safe Passage walkway between garden and building.
  • 2020: Coronavirus pandemic has forced cancellation of all programs.

Since all of the funds for garden development, program development, and care and maintenance have all been through private donations to the Michigan 4-H Foundation, hundreds of people have been a vital part of our history. We want to thank everyone who has contributed to the 4-H Children's Gardens over the years. Your gifts are making a difference.

Through your support, we have been able to create a garden and programs that fulfill our Mission to:

  • Promote an understanding of plants and why they are important in our daily lives,
  • Nurture the wonder in a child's imagination and curiosity,
  • Provide a place of enrichment and delight for children of all ages.

The 4-H Children's Gardens are an amazing place. Let's celebrate our history as we look toward a great future!

Why the 4-H Children's Gardens?

4-H is the youth component of Michigan State University Extension. Extension, or public outreach programs, is one of the three parts of the MSU land-grant mission. QR CodeThe other two are teaching and research. The Smith-Lever Act passed in 1914 created Extension and at that time 4-H became part of the land-grant system.

The state headquarters for 4-H Youth Programs is located in Agriculture Hall on the MSU campus. MSU Extension offices are in all counties of the state.

The H's stand for Head, Heart, Hands and Health... the whole person.

4-H is the largest out of school program in the state and nation. The clover is the 4-H logo.

The motto is "Make The Best Better," and the philosophy is "Learning by Doing".


The Michigan 4-h Children's Gardens have been recognized as a model for other gardens and as an inspiration for children's gardens everywhere. In addition, the programs and technology integration have been recognized with numerous awards.

Here are some of the recognitions that everyone should know about:

Design Awards

  • 1995: Honor Award for Design of the Year from the Michigan Chapter-American Society of Landscape Architects
  • 1999: ASLA Medallion Award.

Program awards

  • Stories in the Garden: Outstanding Program for Young Adults, American Library Association.

Web awards

  • Golden Web Award, International Association of Webmasters and Designers, November 2001.
  • Surfers' Choice Award, Surfers Choice Awards, November 2001.
  • Cool Site of the Day, Cool Site of the Day, November 2001.
  • Webmaster Award, The Webmaster Awards, December 2001.
  • Web Author's Choice Award, Pinnacle-Club Web Author's Choice Award, December 2001.
  • Busy Educator Award, The Busy Educator's Guide to the World Wide Web, December 2001.
  • Exploratorium Ten Cool Sites, the Exploratorium, December 2001.
  • The Teacher's Corner Excellence for Education Web Sites, The Teacher's Corner, December 2001.
  • NEM5 Web Magic Bronze Award, NEM5, December 2001.
  • Maestro Awards Bronze, Maestro Awards, December 2001.
  • EduNET Choice Award 1/24/2002
  • FlashKit.com 1/13/2002 - Selected as 'Featured Sites of the Week'.

Other recognition

  • Featured in many children's garden books.
  • Travel destination for mid-Michigan.

Looking Ahead

The Gardens

We will continue to have friends join us to complete the theme areas in the Indoor 4-H Children's Garden and the Pete & Sally Smith Schoolyard Demonstration Garden.

Click here for more information on sponsorship opportunities.

We will also do our very best to keep the gardens looking beautiful every day.


We will continue to improve and expand our educational programs. For now, our efforts will focus on:

  • Butterflies in the Garden
  • Seeds of Science
  • Collaborating Classrooms
  • Jr. Plant Scientist


We will continue our efforts to elegantly integrate technology into everything we do in the garden. Our efforts will focus on:

  • Wonder Wall
  • QR Codes in the garden
  • Virtual gardening experiences through the Idea Seekers Gardening experiences
  • Integration of Google docs and Wikis into programs and experiments

The future is very exciting as we continually find new, better and exciting wasy to make the 4-H Children's Gardens a "magical place of learning" for everyone who visits.

Become a Friend of the Garden today and join us as we continue on this amazing journey!