Healing through Horticulture


Cynthia Kozlowoski’s students gather at a table in the recreational center during class. The park is often used by special education students in Carolina Conn and Kozlowski’s classes throughout the day.

Rachel Childress, Staff Writer

Construction on a new outdoor classroom accessible to all students, including the Therapeutic Intervention Program (TIP) unit students, finished before the beginning of the school year.

The school district, Water District and Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) granted teachers Carolina Conn and Katie Dolan’s proposal to build the recreational center late last school year.

“It was always a dream of mine to start the park,” Conn said. “[My students] need the exploring and adventure. They don’t need to be cooped up in here.”

The TIP unit is utilizing the park to improve the sensory, work, and motor skills of their students through nature.

Later on in the year, they plan to grow seasonal plants and participate in more social activities in the park and around school.

“[The recreational center] is also what we use to calm [students] down,” Conn said. “If they’re having a bad day, they go out there and take a breather.”

According to Conn, maintaining the plants helps improve self-esteem through the visual success of physical involvement. Conn also believes that the recreational center has benefits for all students in general.

“We built the park for everyone, not just our students,” Conn said. “We want everyone included.”

The park benefits all students including the handicapped, equipped with specialized triangular tables and raised flower beds that are wheelchair accessible.

Some of special education teacher Cynthia Kozlowski’s students, such as junior Anam Usmani, enjoy the recreational center before, during, and after school.

“You can sit and eat and plant stuff,” Usmani said. “I wait for my parents outside.”

Usmani participates in park maintenance with Conn’s students. Although the Special Education department helped provide the school with the park, Conn and the other teachers and nurses in the department encourage more involvement in student assistant programs.

“[The park] is really nice,” Usmani said.