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Perkins School for the Blind, Watertown, MA, March 2019

Reflections – March 30 Workshop “Explore Your Senses And Dig Into Documentation”

Written by Deborah Krause, HTM

Horticultural Therapist

Coordinator, The Thomas and Bessie Pappas Horticulture Center

Perkins School for the Blind

We were thrilled to welcome 23 colleagues and friends, a new record high, to the NEHTN Workshop at the Thomas and Bessie Pappas Horticulture Center at Perkins School for the Blind on Saturday March 30. Participants came from as far as NC and VA and the New England states. It was truly an honor to receive enthusiastic positive feedback from everyone and to host an amazing group with such high energy and dedication. Attendees learned about our established 36 year Horticultural Therapy program, experienced a hands-on sensory activity and learned how individuals’ progress is documented.

We opened the day with registration and displays that showed Farmer’s Market work experience (one of my favorite classes!), student made horticultural crafts items for sale, and the updated NEHTN display board. Horticulture Therapy materials on display included connections to Curriculum and the Expanded Core Curriculum (concepts and skills that often require specialized instruction with students who are blind or visually impaired), student transition portfolios and student made books with adaptations for CVI (cortical visual impairment). Continental breakfast included mint, hyssop and lemon balm teabags made with herbs grown and harvested from the student garden, dried and crushed to make the teabags. We served delicious hot mulled cider with mulling spices made by students.

The Sensory Exploration Greenhouse Activity in the morning was interactive. Pairs worked together with blindfolds or vision disability simulators. Teams used a Sensory Guide to find plants that represent each of the five senses in our unique and therapeutic sensory greenhouse environment. See Sensory Greenhouse Activity Guide (attached). We – Deborah, Margie and Marion – facilitated the exploration, gently encouraging everyone to find comfortable and accessible ways to explore what a greenhouse is and the many varieties of plants. They guided people to experience situations that came up relating to visual impairments, orientation and mobility, providing clear instructions, and sensory motor integration. After participants had an opportunity to GUIDE and BE GUIDED, everyone shared an aspect of their experience. This is the enlightening part of the activity – to hear each person’s reactions as they were blindfolded, increased sensitivity to giving directions or describing things for people with visual or cognitive disabilities and heightened use of senses. It was a special time sharing feelings and how it can help us as Horticulture Therapists. We talked about how the “19 Ways To Step Back” (handed out at workshop) is relevant to therapy and teaching.

A business meeting (see minutes) led by Erin Backus, President was held in the beautiful main building followed by lunch. There was an optional tour of the Perkins tactile museum.

“Dig Into Documentation” was the topic for three breakout sessions after lunch. Each group learned why documenting quantitative and qualitative progress is critical as professionals and for validation of Horticultural Therapy. We introduced practical documentation methods, including general and detailed daily charting of objectives from IEP’s on paper and on line. We shared ways to help everyone incorporate documenting into their busy jobs. Each group actively documented while actually doing a hands-on activity.

Deborah led the leaf print card activity with scented geranium and fern plants from the greenhouse, stampers and tactile materials. Marion led the succulent planter project. Margie showed folks how to make potpourri as a means to teach basic math concepts. In each session, there was much interest in our assistive devices.

At the end of the day, we networked further while some people lingered a bit longer to take a look at our outdoor garden, just waking up, and then said our goodbyes . . . Or shall I say “until our next workshop”.

In the spirit of “It takes a village”:

* A big thanks to Margie Carney, TVI and Marion Myhre, HTR, TVI for assisting with planning for this workshop.

* Thanks to Erin Backus, President, for collaborating on the program and supporting the topics of documentation and sensory exploration. It is always a pleasure to work with you Erin!

* Thank you to EVERYONE on the NEHTN Board for keeping this network active and continuing to believe in and promote the power of Horticultural Therapy:

Kathy Perry/Secretary, Lynn Zeltman/Treasurer, Lisa Biggio/VP, Irene Barber & Donna Covais/Fundraising, Danielle Giaime/Membership.

* I want to recognize Pat McCall, Educational Program Supervisor for myself, Marion and Margie, and Ed Bosso, Superintendent, for supporting our hosting this day.

* We also appreciate support from Perkins Support Services: Bryce MacKnight, Clint Harris and Bobby/Food Services Catering, James Boggie/Events Planning, Pedro and Jesus/Facilities Movers, Daniel/Custodial and David/Security.


Helen Keller Quotes:

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor even touched , but just felt in the heart”.

“Use your eyes as if tomorrow you would be stricken blind. . . .

Hear the music of voices, the song of the bird, the mighty strains of an orchestra, as if you would be stricken deaf tomorrow.

Touch each object as if tomorrow your tactile sense would fail.

Smell the perfume of the flowers, taste with relish each morsel, as if tomorrow you could never smell and taste again.

Make the most of every sense;

glory in all the facets of pleasure and beauty which the world reveals to you”.

“Three Days To See,” The Atlantic Monthly, January 1933

Please feel free to contact us for further information or to visit our program.

Deborah Krause, HTM

Horticultural Therapist

Coordinator, The Thomas and Bessie Pappas Horticulture Center

Perkins School for the Blind

175 North Beacon Street

Watertown, Massachusetts 02472


[email protected]