At the Sensory Courtyard in Fremont, Nebraska, children climb, clamber, scamper and swing. In a cave they ease themselves into a secret reading place. In a hobbit house they chase “butterflies” and “grow” flowers. At a table they create towers from plastic tubes. They see, hear, touch, smell and taste—engaging all five senses. The courtyard sparks an inner awakening for the children who are visually impaired, have autism or deal with behavioral disorders. “Oh my gosh—it’s amazing how they react to it. Their faces just light up,” says Lion Mary Robinson, a special ed teacher for Fremont schools. But the sophisticated playground is about much more than fun. “The experiences they have in the courtyard help alleviate some issues in the classroom. They’re learning without even knowing it,” says Robinson of the Fremont John C Lions Club. “Parents tell me how much it’s helped their children.” Located within a school complex, the $150,000 courtyard was a project of Lions of District 38 O and LCIF. Madilyn Mau, a 3-year-old with developmental delays, feels water running down a stone at the courtyard. Madilyn romps in a ball pit with her mom, Summer. Amid colored bubble towers, Aurora Seip, a visually impaired 6-year-old, likes the sound of her voice through a microphone. Zach Bean, an 11-year-old with autism, admires his tower of tubes. Sammi Zamora, a 3-year-old with behavioral issues, enjoys the leathery skin of a pair of turtles.
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