Johnson Elementary celebrates new Susan Elder Sensory Garden for special needs children

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Monday was a special morning at Johnson Elementary School. A new sensory garden was dedicated with much fanfare.

A courtyard was transformed into something that students – especially special-needs students with autism – can now use to learn and grow.

Through a public-private partnership, the unused space has become an amazing garden and outdoor learning space.

Pedaling for Kids and Matthew Gibson of Gibson Construction Company provided the funds and did the work on the roughly $20,000 project.

Rhonda Eysel is on the Pedaling for Kids Board of Directors and was involved in the project.

“So, this is a first for us being able to help a big group of people at one time,” she said.

The organization was founded in 2010 and traditionally has helped special needs families with items that are not covered through insurance or other means.

Dr. Susan Elder, a Johnson Elementary Special Education teacher, saw the need for the space and helped put together the coalition that made it possible.

“I did not think it would ever be this beautiful, but paddling for kids went all out on it,” Elder said. “And Matthew, he did incredible work. It is absolutely beautiful.”

Johnson Elementary Principal Lisa Whitaker watched like a proud parent as children played and beat on instruments in the garden.

“Our garden with it was a dream six months ago, that dream was talked about around the table,” Whitaker said. “Community partners came together and they just said, “And what else? We were just blown away.”

The garden was named for Dr. Elder – and that honor was a surprise.