Johnson Elementary’s New Sensory Garden

Posted by on Aug 10, 2017 | Comments Off on Johnson Elementary’s New Sensory Garden

Johnson Elementary’s New Sensory Garden
by Rick Harden
Thanks to the generous support of our community, the Johnson Elementary Garden is proud to unveil our Exploration and Sensory Garden Bed. This bed was designed to be accessible and friendly to children with a variety of sensory abilities. Specifically, we wanted to create a garden space that was as accessible as possible to all of our Johnson community members, including individuals in wheelchairs and those with other disabilities.


During the winter of 2015, we launched this effort and, through the support of many donors, managed to raise the $2000 needed in order to pay for the materials needed to begin construction. Over the summer and fall of 2016, with the help of Dan Sweet, we built the exterior from cedar with an undulating top edge to guide little hands through a multi-sensory experience. The finished bed stands 32″ high, and is shaped like a U. The bottom of the U measures 10 feet on the outside, with each arm or side measuring 6 feet and providing ample room in the interior for a wheelchair. The bed boasts an assortment of herbs, vegetables and flowers to appeal to all 5 senses. Over the last month of the school year, we had the opportunity to add worms, beetles, centipedes, millipedes, crickets, ladybugs, and pill bugs (roly-polies) to further enrich and aerate the soil. This afforded us the opportunity to discuss why insects and worms are essential to healthy soil.


The idea for the Exploration and Sensory Garden Bed was inspired by a student who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy and is confined to a wheelchair. He liked coming out to the garden, and yet, it was readily apparent that we needed to do more to make the garden accessible for him and for everyone. The Exploration and Sensory Garden Bed has proved a popular addition to the Johnson Garden. Like other items made with universal design principles, the bed has broad appeal. The height of the bed, and the variety of plants, is perfect for the children to get up close, observe and study.

August is Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) awareness month! SMA is a genetic disorder that affects the control of muscle movement. More information about Spinal Muscular Atrophy can be found at

Accessible gardens are good for everyone! To learn more about creating accessible garden spaces, visit or