Auburn University’s Kreher Preserve and Nature Center, or KPNC, will hold a grand opening from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. April 2 to celebrate East Alabama’s first sensory trail.
The Sensory Forest—sponsored by Auburn Therapy and Learning Center, or Auburn TLC—hosts a series of experiences along an accessible trail that are designed to engage all seven senses and immerse visitors of all ages in a multisensory journey.
“Nature creates a natural, interactive sensory experience that can provide an equally therapeutic and stimulating engagement,” said Michael Buckman, KPNC manager. “We have seen firsthand how the forest can foster physical, mental and cognitive growth and development for anyone and everyone—from watching toddlers develop into strong hikers as they stumble over tree trunks and up hills, to hearing a child diagnosed as nonverbal say ‘tree’ for the first time, to learning about the medicinal benefits of simple weeds from one of our master gardeners.”
The Sensory Forest is designed to allow visitors to focus and explore the sights, sounds, smells and tastes, as well as internal and external feelings that can be experienced in nature.
“Auburn Therapy and Learning Center is excited and proud to serve as the presenting sponsor for the Sensory Forest,” said Auburn TLC co-owner and speech pathologist Heather Gotthelf. “Given our client base of children with special needs, including those with sensory issues, this opportunity seemed more than fitting.”
The KPNC Sensory Forest will highlight each of the senses with a natural and interactive twist. The trail will feature accessible terrain and prompts to encourage guests to use their senses to guide them through the trail. A sensory sanctuary midway through the trail will offer guests a safe resting area to step away if they are feeling overwhelmed or simply need a break.
“Sensory play supports growth in so many ways, and we are excited about the natural learning experience that the Sensory Forest at Kreher Preserve and Nature Center presents for our clientele and everyone in the surrounding areas,” said Auburn TLC co-owner and speech pathologist Kathy McAtee.
With plenty of room for interpretation and instruction, visitors of all ages will be able to use and enjoy KPNC’s Sensory Forest year round and see how the Sensory Forest will grow and develop to accommodate more sensory-based engagements.
“There is no better place for sensory therapy than nature,” Buckman said. “Nature inherently engages all seven external senses. Yes, seven senses. In addition to the five we are all familiar with, sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste, there are two other important senses: vestibular, which is balance and movement, and proprioception, which is body awareness.”