Recently the STARR Students (School for Therapeutic Academic Related Resources) at Reed Intermediate School were able to get their hands very dirty as they helped plant over 20 herbs and spices in the newly added raised garden bed outside the school.
It all began when 7th grader, Barrett DeYoung expressed an interest in working with a special needs student for his upcoming Bar Mitzvah project.
Occupational therapist, Natalie Kaiser, introduced Barrett to one of her students, Kevin Eckler, 14. Natalie felt Kevin, who is blind and mildly autistic, would make a great "peer connection" for Barrett; and she was right.
After a few introductory visits which included playing a board game designed for the blind and, holding guinea pigs and chickens, Natalie suggested it might be nice for Kevin and Barrett to work on a project.
Natalie's work with the STARR students, all of whom are unable to see, has taught her the importance of providing experiences for these students which utilize senses other than sight. Hence came the idea for a raised, wheelchair accessible garden bed. Kevin and Barrett wasted no time in rising to the challenge.
Plans were drawn - very carefully to ensure the wheelchairs would fit right up and under the table, lumber and supplies were purchased, herbs were researched and in June, Kevin and Barrett (with help from Natalie's daughter, Izzy) began construction.
Shakespeare's Garden in Brookfield graciously donated twenty fragrant herbs and spices such as oregano, lavender and basil, and on July 24th, Kevin and Barrett delivered the garden bed to Reed where it was given a prominent and permanent home in front of the school across from the play area.
The STARR students came out to help fill the bed with dirt and it was clear from the start that this tactile and aromatic experience was both stimulating and enjoyable. Dirt and water was poured, herbs and spices were sniffed and finally, planted.
The result - a beautiful and aromatic garden bed that not only the STARR students, but all students and adults at Reed can now experience.