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Grantee Blog 2020

Therapeutic Sensory Garden

The continued stress, uncertainty and isolation that many of our students are currently experiencing has negative implications on their mental health.  As more people get COVID-19 vaccines there is hope that the pressures our children have been under will ease.  Unfortunately the trauma and losses that our students have experienced will continue to impact them for some time.

At Merriam Avenue School we are working hard to address the mental health needs of our students. It is critical to provide a positive school environment, a safe place for children to process the impact this pandemic has had on their lives.

Originally when we submitted our grant application to NJHCN in 2019 we had envisioned a Sensory Garden that would have multiple functions but would be predominantly advantageous for our children with special needs.  This pandemic changed that vision.  While the intention was always to provide a Sensory and Mindfulness experience the space has now taken on a therapeutic quality for all our students and staff.

In researching the benefits of a Therapeutic Garden, we discovered that one of the first psychiatrists to note the positive effects of gardening on mental health was Dr. Benjamin Rush, who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. According to the University of Minnesota, “Roger Ulrich, professor and director of the Center for Health Systems and Design at Texas A&M University, found that viewing natural scenes or elements fosters stress recovery by evoking positive feelings, reducing stressful emotions, effectively holding attention/interest and blocking or reducing stressful thoughts.”

As we move into the next phase of planning and planting our Therapeutic Sensory Garden, we are excited to create an environment that allows our school community to interact and connect with nature.  The garden will provide a sense of tranquility and calm that our children and staff are much in need of during these challenging times.

About the Grantee

Merriam Avenue Elementary School

Merriam Avenue Elementary School is located in Northwest New Jersey. The mission of the Newton Public Schools is to educate the whole child. We believe parents, teachers, support staff and citizen's must partner in order to help children achieve their highest potential. Therefore we organize ourselves as community schools.