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Barron Fundamental Elementary School unveils sensory garden

Staff members of Barron Fundamental Elementary School and community members gathered on Tuesday, June 29, 2021, for a special ribbon cutting ceremony to unveil Barron’s new sensory garden.

When students return to school in September of 2021, there will be many students who have not been physically in a school building since March of 2020. With this in mind, Barron Elementary School decided they needed to be creative to meet the social and emotional needs for students, as well as adults, to kick off a successful 2021-2022 school year. Hence, the birth of the Barron Elementary Sensory Garden.

Barron’s sensory garden is a place where little people and adults alike will have the opportunity to take a sensory break and enjoy nature. In January of 2020, the current courtyard at Barron began a transformation. School leaders researched ideas, met with occupational therapists, and partnered with a local business and community partners to begin bringing ideas to life. Nearly six months later and hours of work over weekends and late weeknights, Barron’s garden is equipped with many sensory stations to include but not limited to a chalk wall, water feature, three types of musical stations, sand pit, a painting center – and an outdoor classroom. This garden has come to life and flourished due to the many unique talents and hours given of community partners as well as a generous private donation of $8,000.

Laura Wyatt, Barron assistant principal and one of the leads on the project said during the dedication, “Last August, as we anxiously awaited our Return-to-School Plan, Mrs. Johnson, our principal, and I continued to discuss and envision how an outdoor space could potentially benefit the students and staff at the Barron Village. It just so happened that I kept running across pictures of my friend, Ali Afonja, working with young people in the Community Learning Garden and providing fresh produce to families in Hampton. The thought crossed my mind that maybe he would be able to help us find some community volunteers who would be willing to help us clean up our space. So, I called him and he came over to see our courtyard. On that day, the vision was born for the Barron Village Sensory Courtyard.”
School Board member Stephanie Jackson Afonja said, “I knew this project was going to be successful. The Barron Village came out in numbers to work. It was infectious and the whole community came out.”

Barron’s community partners include but are not limited to Ali Afonja and Stephanie Jackson Afonja, owners of Family Restoration Services and Holistic Family Solutions; Pastor Derek Robinson and Langley Christian Church; Pastor Hannah Hooker and Freedom Life Church; Whitney Rosario and the Barron PTA; James Crocker, contractor; and Richard Tyler Parks, designer. Many of these individuals were a part of the ribbon cutting ceremony.

In closing remarks, Barron principal Karen Johnson said, “This is the garden that love built. When a community comes together in love, look at what the possibilities are.”

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