What is a Sensory Garden?
A sensory garden is a space that has a primary focus on sensory experience, it is the concentration of that experience that can define a sensory garden. The garden is purposefully designed to stimulate the senses with the use of materials that engage a person’s sense of sight, smell, touch, taste and sound.
A sensory garden can be very therapeutic not only for people who encounter sensory difficulties, but it can also be used as a calming space. Sensory gardens are particularly beneficial for children with additional needs, while in the garden children are encouraged to touch, smell, taste and generally interact with the environment around them.
With this in mind we have spent months planning a multi-sensory space here at Merriam Avenue School. We have collaborated with our community partners, SNAP-Ed, Performance Pediatrics and Rutgers Cooperative Extension Program to design a garden that best meets the needs of the students and staff who are going to use it.
We discussed color and how to strike a balance between energizing colors and soft colors to avoid overstimulation. We have painted the pavers fun vibrant colors balancing this with the installation of bamboo fencing to promote a ‘fun Zen’ atmosphere. Further color will be introduced as we plant colorful plants and flowers.
Sound is an integral feature of a sensory garden and important for the creation of a calming environment, we have installed windchimes and a water fountain to promote this component . Through consultation with Rutgers Agricultural Department we have selected plants and herbs that release scent naturally or when touched.
To explore taste we plan to use edible herbs, strawberries and cherry tomatoes. In thinking about touch we have installed a large sensory board with various textures on the wall of the garden, students will be encouraged to dig in the soil and maintain the garden through weeding and watering.
The more senses we engage, the richer the experience. We are excited to start planting and continue creating a sensory experience for our students.
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.