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FL - Broward Children's Center North

Pompano Beach, FL

Caring for a garden and watching it grow is a five-sensory learning experience for wheelchair-confirmed children in Florida. 

Life for wheelchair-confined children can be limiting. But for children at Broward Children's Center North, it gets a little bigger and a little brighter when they tend their onsite garden.

Broward is a non-profit organization that accommodates children requiring 24-hour care. With a $2000 grant from Whole Kids Foundation, the staff was able to construct two raised-bed garden plots that contain over 100 plants, including herbs, fruits, vegetables, bushes, and trees. Broward purchased foundational materials such as soil and mulch as well as hoses and equipment adapted to suit special-needs children. The school also earmarked funds for labor costs to plan and set up the garden, and curriculum materials. The garden would be a beautiful and restorative place to visit. But first and foremost, Broward wanted it to be the catalyst for a program designed to teach the children and expand their views. 

It's "a more enhanced horticulture learning experience….providing our kids with numerous learning opportunities," says the garden team at Broward. "The raised flower beds have enabled them to enjoy watching the plants grow, and using their senses for a heightened experience."

The garden, with flowers and produce alike, allows children to learn about plant life from the ground up and to watch and discover along the way. And the children are developing olfactory, communication, responsibility, and fine-motor skills (with "hand-over-hand contact to trace around some of the picked plants").

By growing produce the children are able to watch a plant from its earliest stage of development straight through to harvest time, and learn what it takes to bring it to fruition. From some of the herbs the children created essential oils, which not only treated them to wonderful scents, but generated big smiles, laughs, and other emotional expression. Moreover, a watering device designed for the children's use helps to facilitate their work with the plants, fostering a more hands-on approach to garden care.

Another addition to the list of benefits the garden provides is renewal, something one expects in the seasonal life of plants, but especially welcome when it comes to their caretakers. The team offers the story of one young man who suffered a spinal-cord injury and found a new sense of purpose and excitement in tending the garden.

"This once basketball star turned bed- and wheelchair-ridden overnight, with very minimal leisure interests in his new state," the team says. "By purchasing an adaptive watering hose with the grant money, this resident was finally able to independently have a leisure interest again. A staff member would attach the watering device with sprayer, along with an adaptive switch that he could hit with his head, and off he went. He asked every single day to water the plants (even if it had rained that day) and he became the "keeper" of the garden. He then discovered he could wash windows, cars, etc. with his watering device, but his overall favorite was keeping the garden alive and thriving." 

The plants in the Broward garden are growing, and happily, the children who tend them have been doing the same. With opportunities for development in so many ways, the children and their garden care for each other.