SDJA unveils a new sensory garden 

By Ella Diamond (’20)

In November, many students asked what the rocks in the quad were for. Construction workers drove forklifts and other construction vehicles all over campus delivering and transporting these giant rocks. But why?

These rocks were the first of many steps in creating a sensory garden for SDJA’s Kindergarten and first-grade class. The board of the lower school has been working on this idea since last August and plans for construction were finalized in September. Shani Abed, San Diego Jewish Academy administrator and teacher initially told The Lions’ Den that the project would be completed no later than December, but recent rains have forced a slight delay.

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Progress on the sensory garden as of December 18, 2018. Photo: Ella Diamond (‘18)

A sensory garden is an environment designed to stimulate the five senses in order to teach lower school children to understand how to communicate with the world around them. The school’s new garden will feature several educational surfaces such as chalkboards, magnetic boards, two knitting boards, and tables where kids shape objects from clay, upon which students can discover their creativity through artistic projects. For some students who might not be so artistically inclined, the garden will also include stepping stones, a small tree house, and a reading area, offering students a variety of places to direct their energy.

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Planning is everything; the blueprint for the sensory garden. Photo: Shani Abed

SDJA loves to improve the school. Almost every year, the school takes on a new project to reach new levels of excellence. In 2017, the school rebuilt the preschool playground. This year, the school wants to improve the kindergarten and first grade with the sensory garden.

Many students wish they could have experienced a sensory garden during their time in elementary school. “Having a sensory garden when I was younger would have encouraged me to learn more,” Micaela Hayes (‘22) says, “it would have also helped me pay more attention to what we were learning.”

School is generally thought of as a place full of desks in classrooms. For 5-7 year-olds, the traditional classroom experience can actually hinder their ability to absorb information. Experts believe that children learn best when teaching aligns with their natural excitement, energy, and curiosity.

Geena Benson (‘21) sees the value in having an oasis like the garden. “It is very necessary for kids at this age to experience learning outdoors.” Benson says, “today, many kids don’t go outside as much. They spend all day in classrooms and then they come home to play video games.”

Edudemic, an online organization that gives helpful advice to teachers and students, believes that the best way for kids to learn is through hands-on, active learning. When teachers use activities that make learning engaging and fun, the students are more willing to participate. Having fun while learning also helps young learners retain information better because the process is memorable and enjoyable. SDJA’s new sensory garden will make this a reality on campus.

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