Sensory garden taking shape in PreK-K playground
Sensory garden taking shape in PreK-K playground

A sensory garden is taking shape in the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten playground, thanks to a collaboration with sixth-grade science students.

The garden is part of an effort to create more outdoor, hands-on opportunities for Santa Catalina's youngest students, according to Amy Aldrich-McAfee, the Lower and Middle School's director of curriculum and learning and the learning specialist for grades PreK-4. Sensory gardens are specifically designed to appeal to all five senses and are a popular way to create an outdoor learning space for children. "To contrast from an outdoor classroom or a school garden, this garden is part of recess and is all about the kids," Aldrich-McAfee says. "If they make the mistake of watering too much or picking the flowers, we will have learning opportunities from that, but it is an exploratory space for them to get their hands dirty if they choose."

In addition to enriching the PreK and K experience, the garden project fits into the sixth-graders' work as an Ocean Guardian School. Last year, students focused on reducing single-use plastics; this year, they are taking a broader environmental approach. "We realized the opportunity to grow things would certainly help the environment," Aldrich-McAfee says.

Sixth-graders have already met with the younger students to talk about what they want in their garden and have helped prepare the beds, filling two large tubs with soil and straw. Next, they will help with planting and setting up a worm composter. The plan is for the groups to come together during two recesses every week.

PreK and K Director Lydia Mansour is excited about the project for her "little budding gardeners," calling it inquiry learning at its best.

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