4-H Wildflower Program

To contact the committee for more information, click here.


The 4-H Wildflower committee assists 4-H members who take the Wildflower Project. The project’s purpose is to educate children from 3rd to 12th grade on the identification, propagation, uses and appreciation of wildflowers and their native habitat. It also teaches plant vocabulary and introduces the 4-Hers to other native plants and invasives. The committee not only assists the youth, but provides education for its own members.

History of Committee

In late 1997, Susan Taylor Peterson (the 4-H Educator) approached HCMGA about creating an Indiana Wildflower Project for the 4-H students. Sometime in late 1997 or early 1998 Emily Roark (HCMGA co-president) asked Mary Kraft to consider forming a committee to present a plan to the HCMGA Board in regard to starting a wildflower unit project for 4-H. At that time INPAWS was promoting the introduction of a wildflower project to the 4-H line-up. A few years earlier, Dan Anderson from INPAWS had written a pair of wildflower manuals for use by the Marion County 4-H program.

On September 10, 1998, Mary submitted her plant to the HCMGA board – a rough draft of a grades 3-12 project. Her plan included the hope that we would, as the program grew, address native plants (wildflowers, trees, shrubs, weeds, ferns, grasses) and invasive plants that threaten the native species. We would endeavor to have the students learn a little botany, the reason to plant, how to preserve and protect natives, and how to identify them. HCMGA would provide the volunteers for initial instruction, workshops and field trips. We would produce, copy and collate materials, and would get the assistance of local libraries in ferreting out information that the students could check out.

The 4-H Council agreed to fund the obtaining and copying of materials, and to provide necessary workshop materials and equipment for instruction and demonstrations, and to oversee, monitor and assist in the evaluation of the project. Various materials were obtained from Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources, National Association of Conservation Districts, Hamilton County Soil & Water Conservation District, and Indiana Wildlife Foundation.

A manual was researched, written and edited.

Twelve students signed up by April 1, 1999, deadline (a remarkable number in the eyes of INPAWS and Marion Co. 4-H). The first year, we held an exhibit preparation workshop and a wildflower hike in April (Blatchley Nature Study Club woods lead by Joe Roberts), followed by another in the fall.

At the evaluation meeting after the 4-H Fair, the committee voted to change the format from one book for all grades to one book for each grade.  Many committee meetings were held at which we worked as subcommittees on the 10 booklets. We had one committee for each of the three major levels (Clover, Junior, Senior). The ten booklets were produced and printed for the 2000 4-H year. 

By the April deadline, 2000, 17 students had signed up. The new format worked well.

In the 2000 year, a workshop was held to assist the students in learning basic botany and exhibition requirements. Papers were handed out explaining materials at public libraries. There were three field trips: a spring wildflower hike at the Blatchley Nature Study Club woods led by Joe Roberts, a member of that organization; a fall wildflower hike at Cool Creek Park; and a fall wildflower hike at Ritchey Woods in Fishers.

In October of 2000, a propagation workshop was added to the project since the latest revision called for 4-Hers to grow wildflowers from seed.

After careful evaluation, we found many mistakes were still in the book. A complete revision was done, and on 1/31/2001, the “finished product” was burned on a CD and submitted to the 4-H secretaries for printing and copying.

The 2001 project schedule included an organizational meeting in February, a wildflower drawing workshop in March (led by Dorothy Chase and Carol Griffith), an exhibition & flower preparation workshop in April, a guided wildflower hike at Cool Creek Park in May, a garlic mustard pull (community service) at Cool Creek Park in June, the 4-H Fair in July, and evaluation meeting in August, a guided fall wildflower hike at Ritchey Woods in September and a propagation workshop in October.

The 2002 schedule was similar. Unfortunately, the attendance for the drawing workshop was very low. It was suspected that the 4-Hers preferred to photograph their wildflowers, so the workshop was dropped for 2003.

In 2004, Kathryn Mascaro and Judy Langdon took over as co-chairs. We dropped the guided hikes, due to frequently having only one or two 4-Hers show up for a specially-scheduled hike with a paid naturalist, and replaced the guided hikes with a list of public wildflower hikes available at nearby parks (Cool Creek Park, Potters Bridge, Ritchey Woods and Holliday Park). (An accommodation to the increasing busyness of children’s lives.) Similarly, we took to advertising community work days at the parks for the community service portion of the project. The propagation workshop was moved to March (to be in the same calendar year as the 4-H project), selecting wildflower seed that would germinate in 2 to 6 weeks. The fall wildflower hike became an August hike at West Park in Carmel, led by a member of the committee.

In 2004-2005, we revised the glossary by collecting the glossary pages from the original booklets, collating them into a single document, eliminating duplication and printing as its own booklet. This cut printing costs for the Extension Office.

Also in 2005, members of the committee diligently attended all of the wildflower hikes and community service days that we listed as available, prepared to give the 4-Hers any assistance they might need in identifying plants or taking pictures. What we discovered was that the parents (often the whole family) attended the hikes & work days with their 4-Hers. This is the ideal 4-H model, strengthening the family by working together. We graciously withdrew from the hikes & work days.

Also in 2005, the judge Mary Welch-Keesey recommended that our manuals be submitted to Purdue to be revised for acceptance by the national 4-H organization. Her recommendation was supported by Steve Mayer, Marion County horticulture educator. We discussed the matter with Bill & found out the enormous number of meetings & tons of work involved since we would be going from a county level project (not a more vetted state level project) to the national level all in one leap. Bill recommended against the attempt, but told us that, if we decided otherwise, we should find a couple of people who were willing to focus all their Master Gardener hours for a few years on the attempt. We chose not to pursue the matter.

In 2006, the chairpersons switched from Judy Langdon & Kathryn Mascaro to Carol Kracken & Kathryn Mascaro. We had 14 enthusiastic kids at the propagation workshop and the exhibition prep/botany workshop. Unfortunately, no one attended the fall wildflower hike, causing us to drop it the next year.

Also in 2006, we received a request to send out 4-H Wildflower manuals to Coletta Kosiba, a Master Gardener in Hendricks County. She was hoping to convince her Master Gardener Association to sponsor the 4-H Wildflower Project in her county. Bill arranged for the manuals to be sent electronically. Three years later (2009), our project judge told us that she had just finished doing “open judging” of the 4-H Wildflower Project (our manuals) in Hendricks County.  

In 2007, no one attended the exhibition prep/botany workshop. We were competing with soccer. Several 4-H parents asked if we could please cover this material in combination with the propagation workshop the following March. This trend of non-attendance was hitting all 4-H workshops and activities, not just the Wildflower Project. 4-Hers, like other children, are over-booked.

In 2008, the chairpersons switched from Carol Kracken & Kathyrn Mascaro to Debbie Owens & Kathryn Mascaro. Debbie & Kathryn partnered together through 2012. This was a period of stability – we had 12-20 4Her’s in the project each year with the majority completing and exhibiting. In 2012 we introduced a new popular activity to the workshop – the dissection of a live flower. Also in 2012, we “graduated” our first 4-H-er to complete all 10 years of the 4-H Wildflower Project. The charming young woman (who was also an excellent photographer) went on to college, planning to study Botany & Natural Resources.

In 2013, the chairpersons switched from Debbie Owens & Kathryn Mascaro to Melanie Hinds, Bev Watt and Kathryn Mascaro. We added a botanical name game to the workshop to help the 4-Hers understand “the why” of botanical names. The number of 4-Hers taking the project dropped in 2013 when the enrollment date for 4-H was switched from April to January (a lot of families missed the deadline). Still, those who were with us remained enthusiastic. Melanie Hinds was so impressed with our project that she decided to try to get Tipton County 4-H to adopt the program. (Melanie worked for Tipton County Extension.)

In 2014, Bev Watt and Kathryn Mascaro approached Phillip Cline to learn about taking the 4-H Wildflower Project from the County Level to the State Level. Philip Cline is the chair of the 4-H Genealogy Project. He wrote the Genealogy Project and started it in Hamilton County many years ago. After it became very popular in several surrounding counties, he decided to take it to the state level so it would be available to all 4-Hers statewide and would be eligible to go to State Fair. He did successfully take it to the state level, but it took two years of hard work and “practically camping out at Purdue for stretches.” He advised us to try to spread our project to more counties first before we pursued state level.

In 2015, the chairpersons switched from Melanie Hinds, Bev Watt & Kathyrn Mascaro to Melanie Hinds and Kathryn Mascaro. We added a leaf identification exercise to the workshop to help the 4-Hers in identifying the wildflowers they photographed. Melanie had everything in place for Tipton County 4-H to adopt the 4-H Wildflower project in 2016.

In 2016, the statewide 4-H program switched to a new computerized system. This switch took so much time & trouble shooting, that Tipton County postponed starting the 4-H Wildflower Project until an unspecified date. Melanie was disappointed.

In 2017, the chairpersons switched from Melanie Hinds & Kathryn Mascaro to Kathryn Mascaro. We encountered a new type of competition for 4-Hers time. Purdue has begun a very popular series of advanced learning workshops where 4-Hers get to meet professors in fields that are the subjects of 4-H projects and do some hands-on learning. Of course, we are thrilled for the 4-Hers that they are getting this wonderful opportunity. However, our workshop is now attended mostly by 4-H parents getting information & seeds for their children. 


The most popular part of our project according to the judges, INPAWS, Marion County 4-H, and other educators is the journal the 4-Her’s keep, logging all their experiences with nature (not just wildflowers). Everyone feels this is the best way to encourage the 4-Hers to get out, experience, and learn about our native habitat.

Emily Roark (original committee) says the best thing about the design of the project is the flexibility to change to meet the current situation.

Other Committees Involved

Master Propagators sends someone to help with the workshop, usually someone already on the 4-H Wildflower Project committee.

Committee Chair Responsibilities

  1. In November, prepare and submit a budget to cover project costs. Costs include (1) photocopying (diagrams for flower dissection, information of the different plants whose seed will be offered for propagation, information on seed starting, care of seedlings in clam shells & specifics on growing each of the plants in one’s garden, worksheets for the botanical nomenclature game, library resource material, a list of available wildflower walks & service day opportunities); (2) clam shells & seed-starting soil for the workshop; (3) flowers for dissection (unless someone donates them).
  2. Sign-up committee members at the January MG membership meeting. You do not need a large committee (half-dozen will do) unless you’re in a year of reviewing or revising the project manuals. (For the project, the 4-Hers read their manual, do the prescribed activities in the manual, fill out all the worksheets, and exhibit a project notebook and their journal at the 4-H Fair.)
  3. Get information on all events (especially the workshop) into the Clover Chatter and on the 4-H website. Kathleen Bohde, the youth educator is the 4-H contact. Also get information on all events to the MG 4-H Wildflower Project committee. Encourage the committee to attend the workshop and the wildflower hikes and learn along with the kids.
  4. Compile a handout listing when the local parks have wildflower walks and community service days. Include the parks contact information & their location and get this information to the 4-Her at the March workshop. This information needs to also be given to the committee members and to be posted on the 4-H website, if possible.
  5. Conduct a wildflower propagation and exhibit prep workshop in March. (Arrange with Lisa Hanni [Extension Office] in October or November of the previous year to get the Annex for a Saturday morning in March. It is relatively easy to clean up dirt & water spills in the Annex.) There is a committee notebook which details what needs to be covered at the workshop. All of the 4-H wildflower manuals (one for each grade level 3-12 and a glossary booklet) can be obtained at the Extension Office. For the project, the 4-Hers read their manual, do the prescribed activities in the manual, fill out all of the worksheets, and exhibit a project notebook and journal at the 4-H Fair. At the workshop, MG’s give a short lecture: (A) Describe what is in each manual. (B) Discuss what they need to do. Emphasize especially the pourquoi stories, service hours and journals. (C) Tell them where to find wildflowers and how to “collect” them [photograph, drawing or cutting and pressing without the roots: only certain wildflowers can be cut, the list of collectibles is in the manuals.] (D) Tell them what the difference is between natives and non-natives [introduced weeds and invasives]. (E) Recommend specific field guides that are readily available in our area, especially at libraries [Yatskeivych is the authority for Indiana, but Peterson, Newcomb, and Audubon are easier to use for identification because they list the plants by color, not genus. Homoya is the local authority on shade wildflowers.] (F) Explain botanical names. Play a game which involves them drawing & coloring an imaginary wildflower, then naming it using a list of botanical terms and their meanings which we provide. (G) Discuss how wildflower seeds germinate and grow. (H) Help 4-Hers sow pre-stratified or pre-soaked wildflower seeds correctly [on soil surface or under soil as required for the individual seed] in clam shells with proper seed-starting soilless mix. They will take their clam shells home. [Usually 1-2 clam shell each with 3-6 varieties of seeds total.]  Explain to kids how to take care of their clam shells and seedlings, how to transfer their seedlings into bigger pots and how to plant them in the garden. [Stratify means cold, wet treatment. Seed-starting soilless mix can be obtained from the Master Propagators Committee. There is a handout titled Caring for Your Clam Shell.]  (I) Hand-out a list of public wildflower walks and park community service days they can attend. (J) Give a contact number where they can go for questions.
  6. Attend any meetings for the 4-H group leaders and project leaders. Although meeting attendance is optional, having a good relationship with the Youth Educator, the secretaries and the 4-H Council is not optional. Remember that you are lead only one of 90+ projects that 4-Hers can enroll in and the county people are dealing with about two thousand 4-Hers. (You are dealing with 12 or 18.) Due to large numbers, the county requires one Project Leader to serve as a contact person. The contact person is required to deal with extra paperwork and to occasionally pass on messages in a timely fashion. All co-leaders must pass a volunteer screening (the one required of Master Gardeners is sufficient). The contact person is sent a budget form in late fall; please write on the form that Master Gardeners supplies the budget for the 4-H Wildflower Project and that all unused funds revert to that organization. You are sent any comments about your project that fair-goers drop into the suggestion box, usually none. The contact person is sent a form for making any corrections on how your projects is listed in the 4-H handbook and to the manuals. Note that all corrections must be approved by the 4-H Council which is not automatic. Enrollment occurs between January 1 and May 1. We advertise the March Wildflower Workshop in the 4-H newsletter that goes out in late January or early February (and is posted on the 4-H website). Not everyone taking the wildflower project will be enrolled at the time of the workshop. However, a later workshop would cause difficulties in germinating the wildflower seeds on time and in getting a room on the fairgrounds to hold the workshop. Our project is a bit out of step with this because individual wildflowers have their own brief blooming periods scattered from February through October. At the higher grade levels when they are “collecting” large numbers of samples and over-wintering the plants they grow, the 4-Hers will be working outside of normal 4-H times. This requires encouragement.
  7. Assist the 4-H judge at the 4-H Fair. We are a small, county-only project. This means our project does not go on to the state fair. Judges are selected (must be from outside the county) and contacted by the Extension Office; we have no input. Only a few judges are qualified to do wildflowers. They also judge wildflower projects in other counties which use different manuals. Judges are frequently rotated. Someone from our committee assists the judge with the mechanics without giving any input into decisions on which projects gets what ribbon. (Judging is on the Danish system where each project is given a blue, red or white ribbon; a champion/reserve champion is chosen, and a grand champion/reserve grand champion is chosen.) As a small project, we seldom have enough participants for a high level ribbon to be given. If the judge has not done our project before, you will need to give them the spiel on our manuals and what is required that you gave to the participants at the workshop (see #5 A&B above). There are “cheat sheets” which give some of the factual information that the record sheets ask (like what are the Indiana laws on invasive plants) in a folder with our project stuff that you can use. It is also a good idea to bring a couple of wildflower field guides with you. Stick up for our 4H Wildflower Project manuals. Our strength is the nature journal. Remind the judge that the journal is to record everything the children observe about nature, not just the wildflowers. Encourage the judge to write comments on each child’s judging sheet. The building superintendent will tell you about any other paperwork she needs you to fill out. You may have a junior leader assisting.
  8. Update information in the 4-H Handbook when needed. A form will be sent to the 4H project leader (the selected chair) in early September. Our policy has been to only attempt handbook changes if we are getting complaints about the directions in the handbook or if we have done major revisions of the manuals. (Changes require a long approval process.)
  9. Keep lines of communication open with the 4-H Youth Educator.
  10. Collect wildflower seed for next year’s March workshop at the Community Seed Collection Day at Cool Creek Park or Strawtown Koteewi Park in October. Collect 10-12 varieites each in their own plastic bag labeled with the common and botanical name. Store in a cool dry place. Do the appropriate pre-treatment ~4 weeks before the March workshop.
  11. Contact HCMGA Board for any assistance or questions throughout the year.
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