garden1411 Oakland Drive, Kalamazoo


Name: Michael McDonnell
email: Michael.mcdonnell@wmich.edu


The Five Senses Garden is a small public garden located on the grounds of the Kennedy Center, part of the Kalamazoo Public Schools system. The garden was designed to support the programs of Center by engaging students in a setting that appeals to all five of the senses. The Five Senses Garden serves clients of the Center for Disability Studies, but is also a wonderful place for anyone to spend some time walking through the plantings, or sitting and enjoying the views throughout the year.

The garden is located at 1411 Oakland Drive in Kalamazoo,across Oakland Drive from both the Kalamazoo Center for Medical Studies (KCMS) and Western Michigan University’s College of Health and Human Services and its Center for Disability Services. There is a parking lot close to the entrance and the garden is totally accessible.

History of the Five Senses Garden:

The Kennedy Center was completed in 1965 to house a program of instruction for developmentally disabled students in the Kalamazoo school system. Soon after it opened, a number of members of the Kalamazoo Garden Council were on a tour of the Kennedy Center and noticed the lack of landscaping on the property and decided to do something about it. As part of the overall plan, the Five Senses Garden was designed to support the programs of the Center by engaging students in a setting that appeals to all five of the senses.

The heart of the garden is a series of three circular “rooms” connected by a winding path that leads the visitor through the five senses from smell to touch, on to hearing, taste and finally sight when you leave the constraint of the walled rooms. Sculptures add interest and benches allow for rest and contemplation.

The garden was completed in 1969. The garden was one of the first designed to engage the developmentally disabled and won a special citation from the American Association of School Administrators in 1970 and was included in the 1969 report of the President’s Commission on Mental Health.

Over the ensuing years the students of the Kennedy Center were mainstreamed into the general school population. The facility went through a number of uses and the Five Senses Garden sat neglected and ignored for a number of years. In 2000 Dr Dennis (Denny) Lyne rediscovered the garden and was instrumental in reviving it for Kalamazoo Public Schools’ Early Childhood program that was then stationed at the Kennedy Center. The garden has been maintained through the generosity of many community organizations and volunteers over the years.

Because of generous donations, the garden was expanded in 2006 by adding a raised bed making it easier for clients of the Center for Disability Studies to work the soil, tend the plants and experience the pleasure of plants they helped grow.

The garden has come full circle back to its original purpose of engaging special people with the wonders of plants and gardening.