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Sensory garden provides tranquil place for students

Students at Longfellow Middle School are experiencing their senses in a whole new way, thanks to the school’s new sensory garden.

Imagined by Beth Whittle, a school counselor, the garden provides a tranquil space for students to go to focus, learn and reconnect. The idea sprouted when Whittle wanted to teach a gardening extension class for students at the school.

An outdoor area connected to the facility had great potential for a student garden, however, it had been used as a storage area for years. Whittle wanted to beautify the space and create a place that was beneficial for students.

“As we worked to redefine the space, I realized we had an opportunity to create more than just a garden,” Whittle said. “The area turned out to be a perfect place for students to go to learn about science, get some fresh air or just relax for a few minutes.”

Today, students can touch, smell, see, hear and even taste in the garden, which is maintained by students. The garden entrance features a footbridge flanked by small “ponds” made of aquarium pebbles and green cement lily pads.

The first circle flower bed has “taste” and “touch” plants.

“We have stevia, lemon, lamb’s ear, yarrow, pineapple sage, chocolate mint and parsley for touch and taste,” Whittle said.

Another flower bed features rosemary, lavender, salvia and other plants with unique smells. A third bed is dedicated to sight, with a large Mexican petunia in the center surrounded by other flowers and plants. A fountain provides soothing sounds nearby, while palms brush against each other when the wind blows.

Steve Waddell, the school’s orchestra director, along with students throughout the school, helped create the garden. Others were also critical in the garden’s success. A local company, 10 Acre Woods, donated the majority of the plants and helped students with planting. Symbiotic Aquaponics donated an aquaponics system, which Earth Rebirth helped install, and Wet Pets donated the fish. The Forest Group donated planks and wood for benches and the bridge, which was built by a local Eagle Scouts troop.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with how it turned out,” Whittle said. “The collaboration and support of everyone has been incredible. And students love it out here, which is what matters most.”

Watch the video above to learn more about the garden and how you can support future projects in the space.