Michigan 4-H Children’s Gardens History
In 2023, the the Michigan 4-H Children’s Gardens will celebrate 30 years of existence. Explore its history with this timeline!
1992 – Construction begins to build the 4-H Children’s Garden after a 5-year fundraising campaign and planning period.
1993 – The 4-H Children’s Garden opens at MSU, the first garden focused on youth located at a university campus. Jane Taylor is named the garden’s founding curator.
1997 – Norm Lownds, MSU associate professor, becomes curator of the 4-H Children’s Garden.
2001 – The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation funds the Dow Connected Gardens Project to develop a model for science learning that incorporated field trips to public gardens, hands-on garden explorations and digital technology. This includes the creation of an online kids’ tour, Wondercasts, Plant Problems learning software program and an online Wonderwall. Seeds of Science and Big Science immersion field trips for elementary students are also established through this support. The gardens are recognized for the innovative use of technology.
2003 – The Indoor Michigan 4-H Children’s Garden opens to provide year-round educational access to science-based learning. The Butterflies in the Garden exhibit debuts in the Indoor 4-H Children’s Garden.
2008 – The Pete and Sally Smith Schoolyard Demonstration Garden opens. This 2,500-square-foot addition to the outdoor Michigan 4-H Children’s Garden offers ideas for creating gardens in small spaces.
2014 – The Michigan 4-H Foundation receives the single largest gift ever – a $3.85 million estate gift composed of $1.85 million cash and a $2 million property distribution from the Mary (Sally) and Donovan (Pete) Smith trusts. The $1.85 million cash gift primarily provides support for the Michigan 4-H Children’s Gardens, including growing the endowment for the gardens, providing expendable support to complete design of the Smith Gardens, and supporting the installation of bathroom facilities and other infrastructure updates within the 4-H Children’s Gardens. The gift also provides general operating support for the gardens.
2016 – New bathrooms open between the outdoor 4-H Children’s Garden and the Smith Schoolyard Demonstration Garden.
2018 – Community partnerships are established with the Capital Area District Library to install a story walk with book pages on display throughout the garden. Local artist Kelly Boyle leads a community mural project. The artwork is now displayed on the garden fence.
2022 – Norm Lownds retires June 30, 2022, after 25 years as curator.
2023 – The 4-H Children’s Gardens celebrate 30th anniversary.