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Special School District of St. Louis County

Garden Provides Students with Calming Space and Academic Opportunities

A memorial garden at SSD’s Litzsinger School was designed to help students learn about insects, plants, vegetables and nature. The space is also used as a calming and reflection space.   

“The Litzsinger garden is a beautiful way for our students to experience nature in an accessible and safe way,” said SSD social worker Kelli Traxler. “I love that the garden provides a natural and simple way to teach and practice mindfulness. Kids are drawn to it.”

The garden contains flowering plants, vegetables and herbs, whimsical birdhouses, stepping-stones and potted plants.

An accessible playhouse, which was built by students from SSD’s North Technical High School, and a wooden shed for tools and supplies built by students from SSD’s South Technical High School also are a part of the garden.

Angel, a seventh-grader at Litzsinger, said, “My favorite part of the garden is catching bugs, and it makes me feel happy. I like to look for flowers and animals.”

According to Traxler, the garden helps many students experience comfort and peace. “It eases stress and worries and helps them relax,” she said. “It allows them to feel rejuvenated and clear headed.”

Sixth-grader Ella said she loves the garden and it’s beautiful. “I love watching the rabbits nibble on the grass. The fairy garden is my favorite,” she said. “I just love being there. It’s so peaceful.”

SSD teacher Angela Slape said students use the garden as a break area to relax when frustrated, to practice leisure skills, and for sensory time. “Students may choose to sit on a bench, take a stroll, or try and find insects, including butterflies and moths as well as bees.”

The garden also provides learning opportunities.

“Students benefit with a hands-on learning environment, specifically for science,” said Slape. “Students can study the native flowers and various fruit trees, and search for various insects that populate the garden.”

Teachers conduct science experiments in the garden and use the area for cooking classes.

“Recently one of my students brought in a peach pit and wondered how it grew,” said Slape. “I was able to take him to the peach tree in the garden and provide a hands-on learning opportunity. We are now trying to grow a peach pit in my room to possibly add to the garden later on.”

The garden was created in 2010 in memory of Mark L. Taylor. As a senior at Christian Brothers College High School, he performed service hours at Litzsinger. After being diagnosed with brain cancer shortly before his high school graduation, he passed away in 2009. Peggy Oge, a now-retired SSD teacher, and Patty Benner, an SSD audiology assistant, designed and created the original garden using funds raised by Taylor’s friends and family.

“Mark wanted to become a teacher and I think through this amazing garden, his dream has been realized,” said Benner.

Published November 2018

student ella in litzsinger garden
Ella, a student at Litzsinger School, enjoys the school's garden.

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12110 Clayton Rd, Town & Country, MO 63131  /  314.989.8100  /  314.989.8552 – 711 (Missouri Relay)

Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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