Elementary School Reading Cabana | September 2018

September 5, 2018

By MARIA MANZHOS for WickedLocal.com ~ Winchester, MA

Several years ago Anne Bianchini, a teacher at Lynch Elementary school, noticed a pattern -- during recess some students avoided going out to the playground, huddling around her despite her attempts to get them to play. Some made excuses to stay inside. The playground was big, noisy, and overwhelming, many kids found. All some of them wanted was to read a book in a quiet place.

“There are a significant amount of kids out there,” she said. “It can be stressful, especially for kids with social anxiety.” Not being able to find their friend or get easily integrated into a game can set off a kid, Bianchini noted.

An alternative for recess
As a result, the first iteration of the Zen garden was born in 2014 -- a space with a garden area and gazebo-like shed with chairs -- funded by a grant from the Winchester Foundation of Educational Excellence. A more recent WFEE grant of $2,950 built on the first project and expanded garden’s mindful offerings.

Today, there is a creative corner with easels made of glass instead of canvas -- a more efficient alternative for cleaning up, Bianchini noted. The storage shed is fully stocked with paints and arts supplies, kinetic sand and board games. There is also a butterfly garden, with lavender and bushes that tend to attract butterflies; a vegetable garden with organic tomatoes; a “kindness rock” garden for painting rocks; a reading cabana, which still needs a cover and some cushions; and a Zen zone with yoga mats and meditation cards.

“It’s designed to support the social emotional needs of all students, the garden will be a place to reflect, self-regulate and encourage all students to be their best self,” said Caren Connelly, executive director of WFEE.

Over the summer several Lynch parents painted, removed a rotted garden bed, reorganize the shed and transplanted dozens of plants in the courtyard. Lynch parent Heather von Mering helped make the connection to secure a donation of labor and materials for the reading cabana, constructed by Gary Rousseau, principal at Herrick and White Architectural Woodworking.

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