The Student Greenhouse Project originates from the closure of the Botany greenhouse and butterfly house formerly located on the north campus of Michigan State University. This 22,000 square foot marvel contained a sixty-foot long stream flowing from a five-foot waterfall down a canyon to a small pond at the end, in the tropical room. In the sub-tropical room there was a fishpond and more unique, exotic plants. There was also an arid habitat room full of large cacti and a 900 square foot butterfly house teeming with different types of colorful butterflies. Many more plants and displays were housed in the connecting hallways. Now all that remains are pictures and memories.
Free and open to the public year round this green-space was extensively used for student activities: poetry readings, drum-circles, and concerts. The community used the greenhouse for weddings, health walks for heart patients from nearby Sparrow Hospital, school tours for elementary students from as far away as the Saginaw /Bay City (90 miles); and informal drop-in visits from many, many faculty, staff, families and students during the day. Naturally, the facility also provided the basis for a variety of classes and educational programs.
Early in the fall of the 1997 school year word leaked out that in a closed-door session administrators had decided to raze the facility. The Botany greenhouse was in the news as the community moved to prevent such a terrible loss. The Botany greenhouse had touched many lives. People had become connected to the plants and were willing to fight to prevent the closure of the only tropical area of its kind on our campus. Due to this strong personal connection and public support for the greenhouse and butterfly house a demonstration march was planned and a public forum was organized.
On October 8, 1997, the forum was held between administrators, students, and community members to discuss the value of the greenhouse on north campus. Many students stressed the importance and necessity of an accessible greenhouse for the MSU community. As a result, an idea to construct a new student greenhouse on the original site on north campus was agreed upon by all parties in attendance.
Since that pivotal meeting and the agreement for a collaboration to build a new Student Greenhouse, the golden opportunity to build a community facility has moved steadily forward. Collaborative work with administrators and an outpouring of information from a large survey have contributed to this success. The Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) officially support the Student Greenhouse. When ASMSU accepted the 2020 Vision Master Plan, the resolution included a provision to have the Student Greenhouse in all future plans. Today, we meet weekly and make progress each and every meeting towards building the Biodome!