Kids of all ages are enjoying Eureka Early Childhood’s new sensory garden. Sarah Agne, an Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) occupational therapist at the Early Childhood Center, began this project after seeing several sensory gardens online.
“I looked out the window of my classroom and noticed this amazing open space that wanted to be turned in to a garden,” said Agne.
A sensory garden is an outdoor garden that allows kids of all abilities to experience the world around them through their five senses (taste, touch, smell, sound and sight).
To Agne, the need for a garden was clear, but the "how" was where the challenge lay.
“The funding of the garden has been, and still is, the most challenging part,” said Agne.
“Our garden is solely operated off an Early Childhood PTO grant and donations. We are very lucky to have the support of our director, Dr. Suzanne Foshage, and the support of Chris Brumbalow, Tim Rademacher and Tom Robertson, along with their supervisors, Bob Johnston and Steve Meyers, from the Facilities Department. We look forward to working with them in the future.”
“Emily Crnko, an ECSE language pathologist, and I applied for the PTO grants,” explained Agne. “With the grants and donations we were able to purchase the Dig Zone materials, and mulch was received from the Rockwood Facilities Department.”
In addition to the Dig Zone - an area of sand, dirt, and rock that the students can dig and have free play to fully experience the various textures - there is the Mud Kitchen, which allows students to get messy and creative while making pretend creations, and a garden that will allow students to explore their sense of taste.
Agne has plans to collaborate with the sixth-grade science department at LaSalle Springs Middle which has a greenhouse to store plants during the winter. Once the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided, the six-graders will come to the Early Childhood Center to help plant the plants.
While Agne had the vision for the garden and what would go in each of the five sections, she did not have the green thumb needed for the gardening area.
“That is where Emily comes in,” said Agne. “She has a vast knowledge, as well as garden club connections that have come in handy throughout this process.”
Crnko admits, “One of my favorite things to do is work in my garden. I have been an avid gardener for many years and when Sarah told me she was thinking about starting a sensory garden, I jumped at the chance to help her. I thought, this is the perfect opportunity to combine two things I love: gardening and teaching children.”
“I’m very excited to be a part of this project,” said Agne. “I think this will be a great space for children of all abilities to experience the world around them for years to come.”