AHES students play in sand in the sensory garden

Albert Harris Elementary School (AHES) celebrated its new sensory garden with a ribbon cutting on Wednesday. The garden was funded by a grant from the Community Foundation Serving Western Virginia and installed as part of AHES’ Green Schoolyard initiative—a partnership between the school and the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA).

“A sensory garden is a garden that stimulates all five senses,” explained Krista Hodges, education outreach manager for the DRBA, during Wednesday morning’s ceremony. She pointed out that the AHES garden includes wind chimes for students to hear, herbs and vegetables students can taste, a rock garden and sandbox they can touch, a bird feeder to attract birds for students to see, and beautiful flowers for them to smell.

First and second grade students at AHES helped to plant the garden and decorate the rocks in the rock garden. Students will also help maintain the garden.

“Our sensory garden was created to provide a unique learning environment for our students,” said AHES STEM teacher Laurie Witt, who has helped champion the Green Schoolyard initiative. “Teachers and counselors can use the garden while teaching Virginia social and emotional learning standards. The garden also correlates with many of the standards that are set out by the VDOE (Virginia Department of Education) for science.”

“It can be used by children of all educational abilities,” said Hodges, explaining that calming colors were deliberately chosen when designing the garden. “I guarantee if you spend five minutes in this garden, you will feel the calming effect … We hope that students and teachers will enjoy this garden for many years to come.”

“Thank you for making Albert Harris a wonderful place to learn,” said MCPS Superintendent Dr. Zebedee Talley. “Thank you for meeting the needs of all of our students.”