Over the past weekend volunteers transformed the swath of grass in front of Park School into a sensory garden. A grant from the Miracle Gro company and design help from the Horticulture Therapy Program Team of the Chicago Botanic Gardens, as well as support from District 65 and District 202, helped the garden become reality by late afternoon on Oct 15.
The volunteers, about 30 of whom came from Miracle Gro, planted shrubs and laid out the path that is wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs. Students planted late fall flowers in the large pots. All the plantings were donated by Nature’s Perspective, Lurvey’s Garden Center and the Botanic Garden, said Clare Johnson of the Chicago Botanic Garden, who designs therapeutic gardens and programs.
“All students benefit from things in the authentic setting,” said Park School Principal Marlene Grossman. She said the students and staff will plant “edibles and sensory plants” as well.
Dr. Grossman also said, “We wanted sustainability and something that we can learn and grow from. We are looking to create a yearlong curriculum and to create civic responsibility. Our kids don’t have a lot of control in their lives. This is one way we can give back to the community – by taking care of the garden and having partnerships with other organizations. Each classroom will have a responsibility. We hope to have a spring planting and a fall cleanup.” She said the school looks forward to partnering with the Cub Scouts, the Center for Independent Futures, and possibly other organizations.
Park School on Main Street serves 65 students with severe disabilities. Dr. Grossman said many people who pass by do not realize it a school. She said she hopes the new garden, coupled with the mural on the front of the school near the garden, dedicated in June, will change that. “We wanted to highlight the school,” she said.