ABOUT THE SENSORY GARDEN PROGRAM:
Wondering to yourself what a sensory garden is? Imagine the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch blending to create a beautiful, magical safe space for kids to learn and grow. In-depth research has shown that time spent in beautiful and stimulating environments can have a strong impact on the health and well-being of people. The idea of creating a stimulating environment has been at the fore-front of the teacher’s and student’s minds at McCallums Hill Public School and now their dreams have come to fruition. The creation of this sensory garden will benefit the school community and in particular, students with a variety of special needs including autism, physical disabilities, intellectual and behavioural difficulties.
Located entirely in the heart of Roselands, NSW – The entire vision for the design of the garden itself had been completed by students in Class Sage at McCallums Hill Public School and presented using the software Minecraft, “How awesome is that?”. A detailed fly-through video was shown presenting a meandering path alongside raised garden beds, unique timber designs, well-positioned seating and a wide variety of luscious plant life. On viewing the students’ presentation, you could almost imagine the colours, textures, smells and ideas emerging from the space, drifting you into a whimsical wonderland. The positive benefits of this ever-evolving space will be a strong haven for understanding, connectedness and also making everyone feel a part of something special.
The benefits of creating this space will prosper throughout the years and will encourage children to learn, slow down, take a deep breath and appreciate the awe of nature all year round. The students’ connection to the earth and also allowing them a safe and quiet place to relax, reflect, chat or even meditate is exactly what this perfect space was designed for. The main aim of the garden is to help lower anxiety levels, allow kids to become stimulated in their natural surroundings and de-escalate behaviours in a care-free environment.
Future plans of the garden design also include a vegetable patch and once set-up, the students will learn to grow organic vegetables and use them as ingredients in cooking classes at the school. Other small jobs around the garden will involve the up-keep of the garden itself including planting, maintaining, weeding, picking flowers and more – these valuable lessons will allow students to learn to thrive and prepare them for future endeavours.
Just like the plants in the sensory garden, the students of McCallums Hill Public School will continue to grow and flourish. Based on the student’s vision for the garden, future projects will include the introduction of an in-ground trampoline, small walking bridge, sandpit and stepping logs just to name a few. The limits of design for the future are only limited by the heights of the students’ creativity and imagination – there is no realm their minds cannot travel and the possibilities are endless.
The relationship between Lantern Club and the school is already well-established. In line with Lantern Club’s vision ‘to make a significant contribution to the quality of community life’, the Club has contributed in many ways to the school. Lantern Club’s journey started with McCallums Hill Public School back in 2012 with a generous donation towards funding for play equipment within the grounds. This development continues to be enjoyed by children today and helps build strength, coordination as well as giving kids the chance to socialise in a fun, safe but challenging environment.
As a part of the ClubGRANTS program, Lantern Club has also helped fund the “Brighten Your Life” book regeneration program, providing library books for students at the school, allowing for better education and development amongst students in the local community.
The ClubGRANTS program itself is one of Australia’s largest grant programs, supporting a variety of education, sporting, welfare, health and not-for-profit groups, funded by local registered clubs with the NSW Government. With the development of the sensory garden, Lantern Club were proud to contribute $10,000 worth of funding towards the establishment of the sensory garden.
Debbie Waicokacola, Lantern Club’s General Manager; Sophie Cotsis, State Member for Canterbury; a representative from Federal Member, Tony Burke’s office; P&C Association President Paul Robertson and parents of students at McCallums Hill Public School were all invited to the official opening of stage 1 of the sensory garden on 18th August 2020. School leaders Ali, Anastasia and Ben delivered an amazing tour of the grounds, with a well-organised and informative presentation of the future stages. The tour of the garden also highlighted the student’s favourite areas, and what each student’s classes had been doing in their particular sections of the garden.
The students and teachers are incredibly passionate about the impact the sensory garden continues to provide, not only are the support unit students utilising the sensory garden, it benefits all students in every class at the school.