Sensory delight provided for Sheffield pupils

Rotary Club at Mossbrook School
Rotary Club at Mossbrook School

A beautiful garden has been recreated for pupils at a Sheffield school to spend time in and enjoy.

Volunteers from Abbeydale Rotary Club spent Saturday mornings over a year working on the overgrown area used by Mossbrook Special School pupils and have just handed over the completed sensory garden to the school.

Initial work involved clearing and tidying the whole area, before painting and planting of bulbs and plants could take place to create the haven.

The garden design represents the sun with its rays against a blue sky background, explained Phil Haywood, chair of Abbeydale Rotary’s environmental committee.

Plants introduced to the scheme were chosen for their beauty and strong scents, so included lavender, sage, lemon balm and winter pansies. These were paid for by Innerwheel club members, and paint was provided free of charge by Cromadex AkzoNobel.

Deputy headteacher of Mossbrook Special School Jessica Brooks said: “It’s clear the children love to see the flowers coming through from bulbs, which began with daffodils and tulips in the spring.

“The garden is a place to explore for pupils, to touch and to smell, and a really lovely sensory experience with pathways wending their way between the plants.

“It’s a quiet and safe environment.”

She added: “We’re grateful to the Rotary club who have been involved with the school for some time and helped us previously to create a sensory room, which is now our next project for renovation.”

A formal handover of the bright new garden took place with the president of Abbeydale Rotary Club, Ray Mellor, and the headteacher of Mossbrook, Dean Linkhorn.

Mossbrook comes under Sheffield Education authority and caters for 84 children between the ages of four to 11, with a range of special educational needs.

Sensory experiences are very important for pupils, some of whom have severe learning difficulties or are visually or hearing impaired.

Numerous studies show how disabled children’s interaction with sensory gardens and equipment helps increase their awareness of the world around them.

The positive effects of children visiting gardens regularly and spending time within them is well recorded and studies suggest children with attention deficits concentrate better after being outdoors.

Sensory gardens need not be all that different from ordinary gardens. They are simply spaces where individuals can take pleasure in the scents, textures, and colours of plants and other stimulants all around them.

It has been found that such gardens can increase the non-verbal communication of special needs children and help them to form positive relationships with adults.

Gardens are calming as well as stimulating. They allow disabled children to take some risks and challenges that they would be unable to do in a normal setting.

Their design calls for extra effort to make sure different experiences are in reach. Trees may be deliberately planted near to a path so that the bark can be felt rather than setting it back as it would be in a standard design.

All this was taken in to account by the Rotary volunteers, who are always willing to provide volunteers for community projects with companies who can provide materials.