MHS Elementary School Introduces New Sensory Garden
Milton Hershey School’s elementary school students have a new creative way to stimulate their emotions and help them manage stress – an outdoor sensory garden. The garden was built over the summer by MHS teachers, students, and staff in an enclosed outdoor courtyard at Memorial Hall.
The garden is part of a new strategy, implemented by elementary school principal Tara Valoczki, to provide students with support to deal with emotional and psychological issues. Another implemented strategy is a “calming corner” in each classroom where students have a safe and soothing area to help them get back on task.
“Part of our mission at Memorial Hall is to teach our students to build the capacity to understand what they need to do when they are frustrated or feeling upset,” said Valoczki. “The sensory garden gives our students a place to explore their senses and understand how they can become calm through the use of touch, smell, sound, etc.”
The sensory garden features a whisper phone, bamboo waterfall, rain sticks, drums, xylophone, marble maze, and a garden for students to water and maintain plants.
The garden is already being utilized by MHS teachers during the first few weeks of school.
“My second-graders are loving the new sensory garden,” said MHS teacher Christine Halliday. “I think it’s such an intentional reminder to students that we learn everywhere by exploring the world around us and by listening to ourselves in the spaces we’re in.”
Mrs. Halliday incorporated the sensory garden into her curriculum. Students practiced using their five senses to take in and then describe their surroundings. From the exercise, students made a list of sensory words that describe how the garden makes them feel.
“I love how creative it is,” said second-grader Jhayla. “It makes me feel happy to hear the water running and I like talking to my friends through the giant tube.”
Milton Hershey School’s whole child approach to education includes multifaceted approaches and supports to help students develop social and emotional skills in and out of the classroom. Read our white paper to learn more.