There are a number of benefits of gardening for children, especially children with special needs. A sensory garden is a space designed with those needs in mind, creating an area where children can safely experience smell, textures, colors and sounds without feeling overwhelmed.
Wrightson Ridge School at Sahuarita Unified School District will be getting its own sensory garden soon thanks to a grant from the Rotary Club of Green Valley. With a wheelchair-accessible stage, art made from recycled items and a sensory wall, the space will be a space children and teachers both can use.
Pat Pease of the Rotary Club of Green Valley is leading the project. It’s the third grant she has written for the Sahuarita Unified School District’s Wrightson Ridge School.
She said the project is a way to help the school and do something nice for children in the area.
“These kids deserve so much and every little bit helps,” she said. “It’s a way to give back to the community and help children with their education; special needs kids will benefit most, however, it will be open for other teachers to use in their curriculum.”
Pease said each year she works on a grant-matching project and was able to secure $2,000 from the Rotary Club and $2,000 from Rotary District 5500. Pease said there are two requirements for Rotary grants, and this project met both.
“We have to have a Rotary element, actual involvement, in the project. We can't just donate the money and walk away,” she said. “The second thing is that the project must be sustainable by the organization once the Rotarian element is completed.”
She approached the principal at Wrightson Ridge to find out what project was on their wish list that might fit into a $4,000 budget.
“They wanted to have a sensory garden and had a lot picked out but they didn't have the funds to do it, all schools are struggling right now,” she said. “I did a ton of research about what would be in it, talked to their special education teacher and looked online to see what other schools are doing to come up with this plan.”
Pease’s plan includes a crushed granite path, picnic tables, wheelchair ramps, a labyrinth and a sensory wall covered in interactive art.
“All these sensory items, games and activities feature textures and those sorts of things to appeal to children,” she said. “The benefit will be they’ll be working on skills like working on their fine motor skills."
Pease said the garden will be accessible to children of different needs, including wheelchairs or poor balance. Though it’s designed with special needs students in mind, everyone at the school will be able to use it.
Though Pease has already begun working on parts of the project at home, the hard work will be starting this month.
The first step will be laying the crushed-granite path on Sept. 14.
Pease said the Rotary Club is responsible for some of the physical work of the project and are seeking volunteers to help.
“We’re trying to get this completed by winter break but I don't know if we’ll meet that,” she said. “It depends on how many volunteers we get, the weather, COVID could impact us, but it’s our goal.”
Those interested in volunteering can contact Pease at 520-777-4233 to find out what times and days help is needed.
Pease is also seeking donations of recycled materials for some of the art projects. She’s looking for clean, hard plastic bottle caps of all colors, plastic bottles, old gears or bike chains, wind chimes, embroidery hoops and anything that can make musical sound like clean pots or pan lids. Items can be dropped off at a box at Wrightson Ridge or at the Rotary Club. Pease will also pick up items if someone calls her at the number above.