Summer Street opens new sensory garden

Jun 13, 2019 by

Published June 12, 2019

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — The Summer Street School PTO and Sensory Garden Committee hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a brand new sensory garden on June 7.

The sensory garden is located in a small courtyard near the elementary school’s media center. In an email sent to the Villager, Summer Street PTO Co-President/Sensory Garden Committee member Kathryn Price noted students and teachers have been using the new garden over the course of the school year.

“Teachers and staff have begun using the space regularly for instructional and therapeutic time,” said Price. “The idea of the garden is that it offers both a complete sensorial experience by providing access to elements that use sight, touch, smell, hearing and even taste. It offers lots of material for content area instruction. It is a calm, peaceful space away from the buzz of the classroom.”

SUMMER STREET SCHOOL officially opened its brand new sensory garden on June 7. Front row, from left, Patrick Price, Delaney Howard, Hannah Crosbie and Hailey Crosbie. Back row, from left, volunteer Peter Scala, volunteer Jenny Scala, School Psychologist Jessica Ostuni, Summer Street PTO Co-President/Sensory Garden Committee member Kathryn Price, Sensory Garden Committee Co-Chair Tracy Carangelo, ABH Services, Inc. owner Tony Howard, Summer Street Principal Dr. Karen Dwyer, Sensory Garden Committee member Sam Crosbie and Sensory Garden Committee Co-Chair Sarah Crosbie. (Dan Tomasello Photo)

Price recalled that the sensory garden’s origins date back to the fall of 2016.

“When I used to teach first grade in Andover, we had an interior courtyard that was set up as a sensory garden and it saw a lot of use by both classroom teachers and by various staff service providers,” said Price. “There were so many ways that staff and students were using the space, and it added a wonderful complement to my own teaching. When I was a math tutor at Summer Street School in 2015-2016, I noticed that there was a similar space at Summer Street that some of the teachers were using with their students. At the time, our school nurse Mrs. Sheils was the person maintaining it, which was incredibly generous of her. It had great potential and many of the teachers enjoyed using it.”

After learning about the Lynnfield Educational Trust’s grant opportunities, Price approached then Summer Street PTO Co-Presidents Heather Rose and Stacy Dahlstedt about the proposal, and said both of them “loved” the idea. The three PTO members reached out to School Psychologist Jessica Ostuni and former Principal Jen DiBiase about the possibility of bringing a sensory garden to Summer Street.

“They were also very much in favor of developing the space for broader use,” said Price. “Mrs. Ostuni was able to set up a tour at her former elementary school in Reading for us, and we loved what we saw. We did some research on the benefits of a sensory garden and then began drafting a proposal for the project. We worked collaboratively with input from Mrs. Ostuni and Mrs. DiBiase and, thankfully, were joined by many of the current members of our Sensory Garden Committee.”

Price noted the Sensory Garden Committee consists of herself, her husband Tim, Heather Rose, co-chairs Sarah Crosbie and Tracy Carangelo, and fellow members Kiley Burns, Alison Squadrito, Sam Crosbie, Melissa Adams and Tara Luba. She said the committee was tasked with overseeing and coordinating the project. She said a number of the committee members were knowledgeable about gardening, and they helped “create the design and researched the elements that could be featured in the garden.”

“We divvied up the task of seeking pricing for the various elements, and worked together to create a budget to submit with the proposal,” said Price.

Price noted the LET, led by co-chairs Krista Kane and Kim Dell’Isola, donated a $4,000 grant for the project. She said the project got underway during the 2017-2018 school year.

“We mostly focused on accumulating the unique elements we wanted to include that were not plants,” said Price. “These elements included seating of various types, a water feature, tables for science and art, wind chimes, a canopy for shade, maintenance tools and storage, a class set of clipboards, etc. We also realized we could use more help, and had some new committee members join the group, and Tracy Carangelo and Sarah Crosbie took on chairing the project.”

In May 2018, Price said Summer Street dad Tony Howard’s company, ABH Services, Inc., “spent a weekend donating the removal of all plantings in the garden that were failing, prepped the space for planting and installed plants that were purchased.” She said Lynnfield resident Michael Chiulli’s company, M&M Landscaping, donated grass seed. She also said Bono, Inc. donated loam and ABH Services donated mulch.

“It saved us hours and hours of work,” said Price. “We also received through donations three benches for seating from 2018’s Fourth Grade Moving On Committee, chaired by Stacey Cook, Stacy Dahlstedt and Maria Micieli, and an art table from Jenny and Peter Scala and family. Once the landscaping work was complete, Eddy Kouyoumdjian, a Summer Street School dad, completed electrical work to allow for the installation of a water fountain. The Luba family constructed and grew a pallet wall garden that they installed. We also saw the installation of a ramp that made the space accessible for children who could not access it with the existing steps, thanks to facilitation by DPW Director John Tomasz.”

Price said the Sensory Garden Committee’s members, along with a number of volunteers from Summer Street’s parent community, “have done a beautiful job maintaining this space so that the children and staff can enjoy it.”

“We have reached the completion of our project this spring, with a couple of final purchases pending,” said Price. “Going forward, the PTO will support the maintenance of the garden and will purchase plantings.”

Price said the committee is “incredibly grateful to see this project come to fruition.”

“I think it truly reflects the idea that it takes a village in two important ways,” said Price. “First, I think that it is reflective of such generosity. This project exists because of the contribution of resources of so many individuals who donated time and money out of the goodness of their hearts. I see this happen time and time again in this town, and it is to the benefit of the children of this community that local businesses and community members give so generously this way, not to mention school personnel. Second, I am proud to see a project come to fruition that really reflects how stakeholders, in this case, the PTO, parent community, school staff, local businesses, and school and district administrators can collaborate to support each others’ efforts.”

Summer Street PTO Communications Director Heather Rose agreed.

“This project is literally the physical manifestation of a truly collaborative effort by so many generous and willing volunteers,” said Rose. “And now, the Summer Street School students will benefit from the fruits of this labor. It’s been incredible to see it come to life.”

Price also noted the sensory garden project is aligned with the school system’s strategic plan and Summer Street’s improvement plan, both of which have prioritized social-emotional learning. She said the Summer Street PTO Board has been “keeping the mission of the district and school in mind” as it allocates resources for different projects.

“I think this project really reflects that philosophy, but most of all, I think it reflects the power of collaboration and the exciting results we can see when that happens,” said Price. “This project means a lot to us.”

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