After three years of planning, a sensory garden offering therapeutic and tactile features for children with special needs took shape this summer at Commonwealth Elementary, through an estimated 200 hours of labor by 30 volunteers, including members of Fullerton Cares Autism Foundation, Allianz Asset Management, and teachers and staff of Commonwealth Elementary School, for students to enjoy beginning at a grand opening, Thursday, October 10, 2013, at 3:30 p.m.
Says Superintendent of Fullerton School District Dr. Bob Pletka, “The Fullerton School District is very fortunate to have people from Fullerton Cares who are making a difference in the lives of our students. The Board of Trustees and the District is very grateful for the ongoing support of such caring and dedicated individuals.”
This sensory garden is unique because of its setting in general education campus at Commonwealth Elementary, providing inclusion opportunities for students of all abilities.
The garden was made possible through community grants, individual donations, and volunteer support, with donations totaling over $20,000 from organizations including Fullerton Cares Autism Foundation, Allianz Asset Management, Autism Speaks, Mike Houser, C.R. Young and Sons Inc., Bob Weeks, Al Rodrigues, and Service Roofing Company.
Says Sensory Garden Designer and Commonwealth Elementary Kindergarten Special Day Class Teacher Sue Pettinicchio, “I really believe our kids can learn anything other kids can learn, it’s just finding the right way to teach them.”
Features include a “discovery house” structure for hands-on garden lessons, a bird sanctuary for observations of wildlife, a pebble pit area for tactile experiences, a two-person water pump to promote cooperation, a pebble “harp,” raised-bed gardens for each of the four special education classrooms, split log seating, a stepping stone pathway for motor planning, and herbs for taste and smell experiences.
Says Fullerton Cares Founder Larry Houser, “I am moved to see how much the Fullerton community and Fullerton School District care about helping our families. Most of all, I thank my dad, Mike Houser, who was deeply involved in getting the discovery house built and deserves a lot of credit for helping to bring to life this new learning environment for his grandson and all the students.”
Children will be reading garden-themed literature this fall, including “Growing Vegetable Soup” and “Planting a Rainbow.”
Future plans include an exterior wall, seating, a reading gazebo, garden instruments, and volunteer hours for upkeep.
What is a Sensory Garden?