Rock wall adds to Sensory Garden

PHOTO PROVIDED Lily, 11, and Braxton Waltz, 2 1/2, check out the new rock wall in the Lycoming County Master Gardeners’ Sensory Garden at the Lysock View Complex in Loyalsock Township.

The crew responsible for a newly constructed rock wall at the Lycoming County Master Gardeners’ Sensory Garden earned recognition from the county commissioners on Thursday.

Glenn Luse, a Pennsylvania College of Technology instructor, and seven students from his masonry and stone masonry classes, built the wall onsite using sandstone harvested locally from the north face of the Bald Eagle Mountain range near Nesbit. It took them five weeks, working three days a week, said Linda Betts, Sensory Garden chairwoman.

The 4-foot-high wall is the newest feature in the garden, which is located at the Lysock View Complex, off of Warrensville Road in Loyalsock Township. Its goal — along with the other features in the Sensory Garden –is to help people explore and strengthen their senses, even those beyond the five most well-known — sight, taste, touch, smell and sound.

“The wall hits a lot of senses … obviously, you can see it, but touching it gives a lot of sensory feedback,” Betts said. “Is the stone hot or cold, rough or smooth? Scratch something on it and you can even hear it.”

It also provides a chance to stimulate senses you may not even know you have.

“The main benefit to the wall is in the sense of proprioception, which is what you use and develop when you climb on it. Proprioception is knowing where your body is in space, body awareness,” Betts said. “For example, if you closed your eyes and I moved your arm, would you be able to tell me where I moved it and how fast? That is your proprioception at work.”

The Sensory Garden is geared for all ages and abilities. It includes flowers growing in raised beds that are high enough for people in wheelchairs to enjoy. A water feature flows like a stream, splashing over pebbles and lined by lillies. There’s room for people to sit and enjoy the atmosphere or use an interactive, handmade mosaic sundial.

Adding the wall was a good choice for the site, Luse said.

“The children have to have activities, things to do, things to climb,” he said. “Now there’s something there they can be constructive with, and it’s not too high.”

Betts recently watched a toddler playing on the wall.

“They love it,” she said of the children who’ve scaled it. “This little kid, he went nonstop on it. He was carrying a bucket and it was great to watch him try to figure out now to get down with the bucket.”

The ends of the wall are cut to provide steps or ledges.

While it’s a learning experience for children, building the wall also was a learning experience for the college students.

“They were learning how to put a puzzle together. Stone work is a natural product,” Luse said, and every stone is different.

“There’s a right stone for every place, and I teach them how to cut the stones the old-fashioned way, with hammers and chisels,” he said. “Then they can see how it’s coming together.”

Luse and his classes have worked with the county Master Gardeners in the past and are discussing a possible project for the nearby Pre-Release Center too.

“Getting out of the lab and into the real world is a great learning opportunity,” he said. “It has an impact on the students too. Money is not the objective — they’re working free of charge — and they enjoy it because they’re giving something back.”

In addition to the donations from Penn College of time, labor and the stones, the wall was funded by a grant from the Bernard and Eva Bredbenner Fund, administered by the First Community Foundation Partnership.

Among the next additions to the Sensory Garden is a pavilion that would allow for outdoors education under protection from the elements. The Master Gardeners are actively seeking grants and donations to support this project.