School project at KLA Schools of Plainfield has therapeutic benefits
PLAINFIELD – Just the calmness of it.
That’s the benefit of a tabletop zen garden for people with memory disorders, said Jaclyn Minor, director of memory care at HarborChase in Plainfield. One garden now sits in the den as a gift from 20 preschool students at KLA Schools of Plainfield.
Moving the little rakes through the sand is soothing to residents, Minor said, which makes it a useful tool for the verbal and nonverbal alike. The activity might last as long or short as a resident needs it, and Minor is thankful the students made it.
“I think it’s fabulous they even thought of us,” Minor said.
Why a zen garden?
At the beginning of the school year, these 4- and 5-year-old students vote on the type of work project they’d like to do, preschool teacher Debbie Wozniak said. This year, the students decided they wanted to learn more about sand.
“While learning about sand, we incorporated the many uses of sand, where sand comes from and how sand is developed,” Wozniak said. “From that, Sandy came up with the idea of a zen garden because zen gardens have sand in them.”
Sandy LeBlanc is the other, Wozniak, is another preschool teacher.
A news release from KLA Schools of Plainfield said the students also traveled to Plainfield North High School to see how sand is used in long jump and then practiced as a competitor and official.
Eric Garcia of Natural Creations also visited the school and showed them how sand is used when making a brick sidewalk, the release said. As part of their sand unit, students also learned that sand can have a calming influence and can help express creativity.
“So Sandy had the idea of making two zen gardens and donate one,” Wozniak said.
A zen garden is another name for a Japanese rock garden.
Several times a year, the students visit the residents at HarborChase in Plainfield. Wozniak said the children play games with the residents.
“We call them Grandma and Grandpa,” and sing songs to them, Wozniak said. The residents, in turn, read to the children. The students then thought it was natural to include the residents when making the gardens, too.
With assistance from LeBlanc and Wozniak, the students sanded and stained the tabletop gardens, going with the grain of the wood, Wozniak said. They added rocks and bridges fabricated from twigs. Twenty students participated in the zen garden project. After completing the gardens, the students brought one to HarborChase.
“They showed the grandmas and grandpas how to use the zen garden and explained how they made it for them,” Wozniak said.
Wozniak said she even has used the garden to calm herself during the day. The kids love it, too.
“They use it all the time,” Wozniak said. “They sit down and take the bridge out and take the rocks out and then create patterns with the little rakes.”