Children in south Belfast with severe learning difficulties are ‘absolutely in love’ with their new school garden and play area.
Oakwood School and Assessment Centre in Harberton Park officially opened its sensory garden with Dame Mary Peters, on Wednesday, May 12 — after a successful two year funding drive.
Noreen Dorman, Head of the PE department at the school co-ordinated the project. She said: “It all started when the Lady Taverners raised funds of £5,000 for a new wheelchair roundabout. We had a look around the rest of the outdoor space and thought, why don’t we try and secure funding and make it a really special place to learn outside?
“As well as funding bids, we have entered relay teams in the Belfast marathon over the last few years and hosted a lot of fundraising events to meet the £15,000 target to make the sensory garden project happen.
“And now it’s here, it is almost like another classroom, there are so many things the children can do outside now that is part of their learning.
“The children here already took part in a lot of exercise and outdoor activities, but since the addition of the garden, the children are outdoors even more —all the activities in the garden totally accommodate wheelchair users, even the sand pits.
“The Belfast Education and Library Board have been fantastic as well and funded a soft play area beside the garden, where there used to be just concrete slabs that were not appropriate to the children’s needs at all. The children are absolutely in love with the sensory garden.
“We have also just planted a memorial tree, a Magnolia in remembrance of all the children we have lost through the years.”