Owen Parker, 4, inspects the butterflies as hsi classmates tour the Sensory Garden at Leona Cox Community School on Friday, November 22, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

Leona Cox Community School opens sensory garden

Following the shooting that took place on his school’s campus last week, Saugus senior Tyler Nilson did not know if he wanted, or even would be able, to complete his Eagle Scout project.

Nilson had sat down with the staff and administrators at Leona Cox Community School and decided on completing a “sensory garden,” which not only combines the classical elements of a garden but also ones that allow students to engage their five senses in interesting ways.

Leila Martinez, 7, and her second-grade class tour the Sensory Garden at Leona Cox Community School on Friday, November 22, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

“I wasn’t sure after the shooting if I should complete the project that was planned two days after,” said Nilson. “But I eventually decided that carrying on and bringing people together … would be an excellent way to rebuild and reconvene.”

Once he decided to complete the project, with the help of his mom, an occupational therapist, an outcropping of support poured out for him and his garden.

A total of 70 people showed up, ranging from Nilson’s classmates to members of the community, and each one helped in their own right, whether it be installing the percussive instruments for children to play on, building planter boxes where students could plant their own vegetables, or the walking path that features different textures and materials for students to walk on and enjoy.

“All the students were able to join one another and work on the project had a great time and feel a sense of purpose,” said Nilson. “I think that it’s important to send a message that the Saugus community has not been destroyed by this tragic incident.”

Saugus High School student and Eagle Scout, Tyler Nilson, left, and Santa Clarita Mayor Marsha McLean applaud the ribbon cutting of the Sensory Garden at Leona Cox Community School on Friday, November 22, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

“Rather, we are becoming more unified, and we are giving back to the community and we’re taking something horrible and we’re turning it into something good,” Nilson added.

Heather Drew, Leona Cox’s principal, said they were hesitant at first, but once the volunteers began to arrive, they realized “that by doing this it’s helping me as a person because I’m giving back to our community.”

On Friday, the Leona Cox community gathered outside the garden to hold a special ribbon cutting ceremony, which featured a variety of school and community officials speaking to the importance of Nilson’s project.

Students place their hands and feet on the hand and footprints on the hopscotch stepping stones in the Sensory Garden at Leona Cox Community School on Friday, November 22, 2019. Dan Watson/The Signal

In addition to noting the significance to the immediate community, SSUSD Superintendent Catherine Kawaguchi said the garden will help support grades preschool through sixth grade further their education.

“It was a project that was a community service and it also joined two districts together,” said Kawaguchi. “And It’s important because want to get children to continue to strengthen and enhance their learning as a whole child.”

During the grand opening event, students toured the garden interacting with the different aspects of it, something they will be allowed to do from here on out.

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