After more than four years of planning, designing, fundraising, and construction, Fernwood Botanical Garden in Buchanan Township, Niles, will celebrate the grand opening of the new 5,500-square-foot Sims Education Center on October 14, 2018.

The new facility will become the central location for lectures, classes, workshops, exhibits, and botanically and environmentally focused books for all ages. It also will be a gathering space for camps and field trips and replaces the 35-year-old Nature Center on the Fernwood grounds where youth classes and camps have historically been held.

“As environmental awareness continues to take center stage in our country and worldwide, students, teachers, schools, and our region’s community members can now turn to Fernwood as an even stronger resource for youth and adults,” stated Carol Line, Fernwood Executive Director.

The Education Center doubles Fernwood’s teaching and learning space and allows the organization to serve larger groups. Two education wings – Flora and Fauna – will accommodate youth and adult groups of all sizes. The Fauna wing features bird-viewing areas overlooking the ravine. When not in use for educational purposes, classrooms may be rented for meetings, retreats, and other private events.

The Education Center is designed for hands-on learning, as well as displays featuring current and historical naturalists, environmentalists, horticulturists, garden designers, and artists. Fernwood’s library, which is currently in the Visitors Center, will move to the Education Center to join the nucleus of educational activities. A special section, dedicated to the learning needs of children and families, will ignite in young minds curiosity and interest in the natural world.

The facility boasts sustainable design features in line with Fernwood’s environmental principles. A green roof covers 25 percent of the Education Center and will work with a rain garden to mitigate the effects of rainwater runoff. The features will work to protect delicate ecosystems throughout the nature preserve and gardens.

The Education Center has been made possible by Seed the Future, an extensive fundraising effort that to date has raised more than $3 million for Phase One of the 10 to 15-year garden master plan. The opening of the Education Center will position Fernwood for growth.

“So many individuals, foundations, and companies have come together to support the Seed the Future campaign. Their generosity not only has made construction of this facility possible but will allow Fernwood to realize growth in other important ways and for generations to come,” stated Joanne Sims, Seed the Future Campaign chair.

Principals for the Project:
Architects: Tigerman McCurry Architects, Chicago, Illinois
General Contractor: ec moore of berrien county, inc., Berrien Springs, Michigan
Garden Master Plan: Pashek+MTR, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Landscape Architect: Rosborough Partners Inc, Libertyville, Illinois
Garden Design: 3Fromme Design, Sanford, Florida; Claudia Parish Landscaping, Harbert, Michigan
Green Roof Design: Christy Webber Landscapes, Chicago, Illinois

The Education Center will be open to the public during Fernwood’s regular hours, as well as during special events, such as the upcoming Halloween Happening and Holiday Market. Fernwood is located in Buchanan Township at 13988 Range Line Rd., Niles, Michigan. For more information about Fernwood visit or call 269.695.6491.