Stony Brook Sensory Garden

BY Jennifer Rogers

Stony Brook Elementary

Project Description

Some of my goals for this years garden remain the same. I want to provide opportunities for students to participate in all aspects of the farm to table process. I want children who are not aware of where their food comes from or do not have access to fresh produce to have the experience of planning, planting, watering, harvesting and eating the fruits of their labor. In addition I want to provide an aesthetically pleasing place for all teachers to take their classes whether to sketch, investigate, observe, enjoy a read-a-loud or simply spend some quiet time in nature.

What I noticed this past Spring when I took students out to plant were how many were extremely skittish about insects as simple as ants. They didn’t want to sit in the grass, they didn’t want to get their hands dirty and this made me so sad!! In discussing this with their teachers we came to the conclusion that a larger population of students than we thought are simply not being given the opportunity to spend time outside or are choosing not to in favor of technology. My hope is that by making the garden as interactive as possible I will turn the tide. I have done research and feel that appealing to all of their senses will entice them. This past year I started to do this by having them plant lavender, colorful flowers, lambs ear, chocolate mint in addition to herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. I also included some whimsical fairy garden features. This year I would like to broaden this by having them create a sign, purchasing a bench and having each student design a rock for a kindness rock path.

How will the project be evaluated (e.g. how will you gauge its success)
This year’s garden was my first and it was so successful and rewarding. The students who were not skittish about insects, grass and dirt couldn’t wait for their opportunity to participate in the planting and watering. In addition most of my reluctant gardeners saw how engaged their peers were and decided to join in. They loved the added whimsy and were anxious to visit the garden whenever they could. During our Open House many of the families expressed their appreciation for all the hard work that went into the garden, how beautiful it was and how much their children enjoyed planting, caring for and harvesting what they had grown. Some even offered to help me water and care for it next summer. In addition the response from my colleagues was overwhelmingly positive. Many, on their own time, took their students to visit and most took their own class pictures in amongst the flowers, herbs and vegetables. The interest and excitement have already guaranteed that with your financial support, next year’s garden will most definitely be a success!!

Benefit to the students and the school
The benefits of this year’s garden far exceeded my expectations. I knew that some of the students would enjoy the opportunity to plant, water, harvest and eat food they had grown however the overwhelming excitement by so many made every hour of my own time I spent caring for it during this very hot, DRY summer worth it!! This year, with your financial support, I hope to attract even the most reluctant nature enthusiasts by giving them even more “ownership”. My plan is to have each child/teacher create a kindness rock for a garden path, have a group of students design a sign and to purchase some sort of bench to encourage teachers to take their students out for stories, quiet mindfulness practice or simply to sketch and observe. The greatest part of the garden is that the entire school community can be involved and enjoy it.

Timeline of Project (when will you do the project, if applicable)
We will continue to care for and harvest our garden up until the first killing frost. After which I plan on continuing our visits, though not as frequent, to document the different seasons in our garden. This year I would start planting in March by having the students grow some of our own seedlings. We would then work on our rocks and sign in preparation for the big garden clean up in April. The majority of the planting would occur in late April and May. Then I hope to recruit some families to help water and care for it over the summer.