Saturday, May 23, 2015

Build A Sensory Garden!

Happy spring time! 
Last month I built a sensory garden with my students at our school. It was awesome! It is also something anyone can do so I've included some tips for your own DIY sensory garden geared towards children with vision impairments including multiple impairments/deafblindness. Why a sensory garden? My answer to that question is another question--have you been to a sensory garden? They are awesome with inspiring creativity, understanding, calmness, recreation and concept development. My love of sensory gardens came from this little tiny garden (it was literally two planter boxes) that I had when I was a deafblind teacher in Las Vegas. The point to the story that I will share is if I can make this happen in a little dirt/sand mix planter in Las Vegas, you can make it happen anywhere. Thanks to my best ever paraprofessional, Darlene Link, (who also taught me everything), we planted chocolate mint, jasmine, rosemary and all kinds of little flowers and herbs. Our garden became our basis of our science unit that allowed such great concept development to be discovered. That was about 10 years ago. Darlene messaged me to tell me that our rosemary from our little garden is still alive in her garden after all this time. Special memory to me as I searched out three different stores because I had to plant rosemary in my new sensory garden as an homage to my deafblind classroom. 
Sensory gardens also teach almost every aspect of the Expanded Core Curriculum for both typically developing children and those with who are MIVI. 
Here's some suggestions for ECC instruction using a sensory garden:
Orientation & Mobility: positional concepts (left/right, center, up/down)
Recreation & Leisure: gardening is a recreational activity that can be done alone or with others.
Career Education: discuss vocational jobs related to gardening including maintenance
Independent Living Skills: maintaining a garden
Social skills development: using appropriate conversational language, joining a gardening club or public garden, going to farmer's market
Self-determination: designing a personal garden, selecting herbs/flowers based on interest
Sensory efficiency: the whole garden project! We used a variety of different textures, scents, sizes, colors and tastes.

 Above: our intro to gardening table with our herbs and flowers. This student is smelling the basil. I sampled tons of herbs to make sure that we had a variety of tastes. My favorite one? I found stevia! It had a great sugar sweet taste! This was our pre-teach table where we discussed gardening topics.
A few other of my favorite additions to the garden were the wind chimes. We have several different types that play beautiful music as the wind comes through. I love it!

Our planter boxes were made for an Eagle Scout project. We used weather treated wood and made them about 8ft long and of various heights. We did this so that our preschool children and our older students who are in wheelchairs could access the garden boxes. We also put wheels on the bottom of the planters so we can move them around. I also bought these awesome large plastic pots from Lowe's for $10 that came in these bold, bright colors. We planted a variety of different flowers including this awesome tall grass in each pots. 

This garden was made on large scale. I also bought 9ft shepherd hooks and hung pots that had flowers hanging over. I did this so that our students in wheelchairs could look up at things. We spent an entire day planting, learning, smelling and having a great time. We also made stepping stones. Our students at my school help me water the garden. 
Take time to buy some planters or boxes or in the till the ground and plant some herbs and flowers! You can also plant fruits and vegetables. I am not an expert and still pulled off a great garden. I am quite thankful to Alex and Susan Westergard who were generous with their gardening skills that tutored me and helped with design. It's also an ECC skill session to go to a nursery or Lowe's and ask for assistance. We planted several marigolds (as several students could see them very easy and enjoyed their fragrance), snapdragons, pansies, lillies, daisies. Herbs: stevia, basil, bee balm, rosemary, lavendar, chives & parsley. 
It's not too late to get your sensory garden off the ground! 

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