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Those who attended the official opening ceremony of the new sensory garden got used to the sense of touch right away as a light mist fell upon their faces while they took in the University’s newest attraction outside the Hafter Student Community Center.

The sensory garden is the brainchild of Barbara Schwartz-Bechet, MS, EdD, former interim dean of the University’s College of Education and Rehabilitation (CER), and was designed to add value to the teaching and learning environment for each of the seven programs within CER as well as provide strategic outreach for children and adults within the local community who have sensory deficits.

“This really represents something very unique for us,” said University president Dr. Michael H. Mittelman,, during the Oct. 29 ceremony. “While it is ours, it also belongs to the community and it’s something that I think as the years go by, you’re going watch this thing continue to grow and change.”

In addition to hosting classes, students in the CER programs can utilize the garden in a variety of ways, including education and recreation elements linking with each program’s curriculum or being utilized in a more informal setting in addition to social and relaxation opportunities. Individual seating areas are also available to be used.

“I would encourage everybody to come out here and use it. Sit, reflect and enjoy it. That’s what it’s all about,” said Dr. Mittelman.

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The garden committee included Dr. Schwartz-Bechet; Emily Vasile, MS, MAT, TVI, MS, CLVT, Blindness and Low Vision Studies instructor; Lauren Sponseller, OTD, PhD, MSOTR/L MeD, chair of the Occupational Therapy department and CER associate professor ; Patricia Martin Mayro, MA, CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathology assistant professor; Fern Silverman, EdD, OTR/L, director of the Doctoral Program in Occupational Therapy; and Richard Echevarria, director, Facilities and Institutional Services.


The landscape design was donated by Jim Sharp, owner of Sharps Landscaping Inc. of Bristol, Pa.; design was by Mark DeCristofano, landscape designer at Sharps Landscaping Inc.; landscaping was installed by Sharps Landscaping Inc.; and planter paintings are from St. Lucy Day School for Children With Visual Impairments in Philadelphia.