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

Aside from traditional learning, 30 students enrolled in the school are able to problem solve and fine-tune their motor skills. The area allows teachers, speech pathologists, therapists, and students to collaborate in learning.

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

Through a PNC Foundation grant and numerous smaller donations, like rubber mats, slices of logs, rubber chips, and more, it allowed the school to build a sensory garden. Staff and volunteers were able to work on the space as soon as the school transitioned to remote learning during the COVID-19 stay at home order in March 2020.

“This is a huge asset to our program that we continue to build and expand upon,” said Andrea Hartnett, Director of the Easterseals Learning Academy. “We added a pop-up canopy over the picnic table which has allowed us to use the space even in the hot afternoons. We now have 3 spaces to use outdoors, the sensory garden, soccer field, and playground, which has given us more options to educate students outside as recommended by the State Board of Education. The Sensory Garden also allows us to maximize social distancing his is just another example of how we can meet the students’ needs.”

Teacher’s Aide and free-hand artist, Niccole Maloney created artwork that promotes visual stimulation and skills. The area is adorned with different colored flowers, insects, and a giant bird. All the characters have different facial expressions that help with social-emotional development.

More about Easterseals Learning Academy

Heading into its fourth year of operation, the Easterseals Learning Academy partners with 14 school districts from across Central Illinois to help children with significant behavior issues learn to participate in a traditional school setting. With a high teacher to student ratio and therapy supports, every student gets a chance to shine.

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