The Flint Children’s Museum’s Sproutside natural outdoor learning environment was created as a place for children, ideas, and natural life to sprout and grow. Museum visitors enjoy the area for the extra space it provides for exploration, outdoor programming, and picnic lunches, but Sproutside has given the entire community much more.
Sproutside offers a large area to run and play, a sand pit, outdoor toy box, bubbles, picnic area, hand-washing station and more. There are a few special features, also. The outdoor environment hosts two gardens—the Sensory Garden and the Edible Garden—that were created and maintained by museum staff, volunteers, and local children and families that visited the FCM. The Sensory Garden appeals to the five senses—sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing—incorporating plants and vegetables appropriate to each sense. The Edible Garden, is full of vegetables that museum visitors get to taste and take home.
Both of the gardens are used as educational tools, teaching children about gardening and how we get our food. Museum staff learned from the gardens as well, overcoming an unsuccessful first planting attempt due to poor soil. The gardens were recreated in raised beds and grow wonderfully.
If you’ve ever heard anyone refer to the place where there are “flip flops on the fence”, they are talking about Sproutside. The fence is decorated with brightly colored sandals, there are picnic tables with rainbow umbrellas, and the trees and plant life all add color to the once boring, brick building atmosphere. Museum visitors and those that live and work in the area have told museum staff how much they enjoy the corner.
This was truly a community project. The project was generously funded by the Ruth Mott Foundation. Volunteers spent their valuable time designing gardening boxes, master gardeners donated their knowledge to plant and maintain the garden, local businesses donated their unique services and supplies; there was a generous amount of support from the community.