The best thing about OKE providing gardens to schools, is when we head back to visit and see these new spaces being used as “Outdoor Classrooms” (OC’s). As well as growing produce in the OC, a lot more can be learnt by the kids being around plants of all kinds. One way to encourage the learning is to use part of the OC as a sensory garden. We tend to build at least eight raised beds per OC, so converting one raised bed into an area for enticing the sences is a great introduction to sensory gardening. SO, what is a sensory garden?
A sensory garden is a space which stimulates all of our senses; Sight, Smell, Taste, Touch and Hearing. Of course its possible to teach some of these things from a book, but being outside and actually using their senses, kids will develop quicker. Within just one session in the sensory garden, the kids can use all their senses, as opposed to just sight and hearing (even this is not guaranteed with kids).
The great thing about using part of the OC as a sensory garden, is that all kids can benefit, especially those with learning difficulties. There have been studies around the globe, proving kids on the autism spectrum can use sensory gardens to improve their overall wellbeing.
Here are a few ideas to add sensory elements to your garden/OC:
SIGHT – Having an array of colour in the sensory garden peaks kids interest and this can be achieved by planting flowers i.e. sunflowers, marigolds etc. You can also let herbs and veggies go to seed and flower. Also interesting shapes help with visionary stimulation i.e succulants are great.
SMELL – Herbs in the sensory garden are great for kids to experience new smells, i.e. mint, chives, sage, bay leaves, dill and coriander. Adding strong scents such as lavender, honey suckle and lemon balm are great for both kids and bees noses.
TASTE – The fanatsic treat with having an OC/sensory garden in a school, is that kids can experience the taste of freshly picked food straight from the plants. Get them to compare a tomato from the garden and a store bought tom, the difference will blow their little minds.
TOUCH – Experiencing a variety of different textures is a wonderful use of the sensory garden. Kids can rub seeds between their fingers, rub their hands down large silverbeet leaves and feel the softness of feather like ferns.
HEARING – One of the best ways to experience sound in the garden is to just stand and not move (this can be quite the challenge for kids). Just listening to the sounds will help to kids to chill and will help in stimulating other senses.
So, what are you waiting for, find a little plot in your OC and turn it into a space to grow those sences!