A sensory garden serving Kentwood’s youngest students is more whimsical than ever, thanks to the artwork of East Kentwood High School art teacher Adrienne DeMilner and junior Emma Pinchak.
Creatures, reminiscent of children’s author Eric Carle’s drawings in books like “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “The Grouchy Ladybug,” climb and crawl on the large painted mural in the Hamilton Early Childhood Center’s garden, located in the outdoor courtyard.
DeMilner and Emma spent several summer days completing the piece. The sensory garden was created last year for students with sensory processing difficulties to relax by listening to wind chimes, sinking their bare toes into sand, smelling lavender, touching shiny rocks and feeling the breeze or sunshine.
Now, the youngsters also see their own artwork painted big. Preschoolers submitted drawings of the bugs and birds, which the artists added to the mural.
“I think it’s fun to do murals. You don’t get a chance to do them as much as regular art,” said Emma, who also helped paint numbers and shapes with animated faces in the school’s hallway with four other students. “It’s nice to have stuff on the walls.”
DeMilner has led efforts to add art at Hamilton since 2012. Last year, she and art students painted fireflies, ladybugs, stick-bugs and other crawly critters and large Michigan wildflowers next to classroom doors. Previous work also includes a honeybee, the Hamilton Honeybees, and a mural with children of many different ethnic backgrounds holding balloons.
“I think kids are really attracted to bright colors,” said DeMilner. “It’s an exciting space. It can be a learning mural too. Students can talk about nature and all of the animals they see in a garden.”
Preschool teacher Carla Fortuna said students are excited to go out to the garden and name the animals on the mural. “They really embrace the entire area. This year is the nicest we’ve seen it.”