Enhanced learning

Outdoor Sensory Garden Brings Enhanced Learning to Easterseals Learning Academy

GERMANTOWN HILLS, Ill. (WMBD) – A sensory enhanced learning environment is available outside of the Eastereals Learning Academy in Germantown Hills.

In addition to traditional learning, 30 students enrolled in the school are able to solve problems and refine their motor skills. The zone allows teachers, speech therapists, therapists and students to collaborate in learning.

“If we can bring play and development into the natural setting and have them learn while they play without knowing it… that’s the best of times,” said Carissa Melody, teacher at Easterseals Learning Academy. “The Sensory Garden helps our students use their problem-solving skills as well as motor skills with activities such as ball drop, balance beam, ramp and slide. Logic and reasoning skills will be used with whisper tube and sound production using different sensory wall objects and instruments.

Thanks to a grant from the PNC Foundation and many small donations, such as rubber mats, slices of logs, rubber chips, etc., he enabled the school to build a sensory garden. Staff and volunteers were able to work on the space as soon as the school switched to distance learning when COVID-19 was ordered to stay home in March 2020.

“This is a huge asset to our program which we continue to develop and develop,” said Andrea Hartnett, director of the Easterseals Learning Academy. “We added a retractable awning over the picnic table, which allowed us to use the space even on hot afternoons. We now have 3 spaces to use outside, the Sensory Garden, the Soccer Field and the Playground, which has given us more options to educate the students outdoors as recommended by the State Board of Education. The sensory garden also allows us to maximize social distancing. This is just another example of how we can meet the needs of students.

Teacher assistant and freehand artist, Niccole Maloney has created works of art that promote visual stimulation and skills. The area is adorned with flowers of different colors, insects and a giant bird. All the characters have different facial expressions which aid in socio-emotional development.

Learn more about Easterseals Learning Academy

As it enters its fourth year of operation, Easterseals Learning Academy is partnering with 14 school districts in central Illinois to help children with significant behavioral issues learn to participate in a traditional school setting. With a high teacher-to-student ratio and therapeutic supports, every student has the chance to shine.


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