Kim Eisert Simpson Sensory Garden dedicated at WKU

A dedication for a sensory garden was held last week. Pictured from left is Dr. Donald Smith,...
A dedication for a sensory garden was held last week. Pictured from left is Dr. Donald Smith, President of the College Heights Foundation; Cleveland Simpson; WKU President Timothy C. Caboni; Kim Eisert Simpson; and Amanda Trabue, WKU Vice President for Philanthropy & Alumni Engagement(WKU)
Published: May. 16, 2022 at 11:10 AM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - A garden designed to engage all five senses and featuring more than 80 different plant and tree species was dedicated Thursday at WKU.

The Kim Eisert Simpson Sensory Garden is located on the grounds of the Cliff Todd Center, home of the College Heights Foundation.

Simpson, for whom the space is named, has been involved with the planning and design of the garden from the beginning, but not the very beginning of the concept.

The naming of the Kim Eisert Simpson Sensory Garden was actually a surprise Christmas gift for its namesake from her husband, Mike Simpson, and their son, Cleveland Simpson.

“My immediate reaction on learning of the gift was grateful astonishment,” Simpson said. “Then, I cried.”

Once the surprise was revealed, Kim Simpson who is a certified Master Gardener, began working with a team to design the sensory garden.

“We had a great team working on the design of the garden,” Simpson said. “It was a lot of fun sharing and building upon each other’s ideas for the garden, and the finished product is so much more than what we envisioned when we started.

Dr. Leslie A. North, Associate Professor and Interim Department Chair of the Department of Earth, Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences and Director of Sustainability for WKU, was also involved with the project.

“One of the objectives of the Office of Sustainability is to enhance the WKU student experience and support meaningful connections to our environment and surrounding communities,” North said. “The Kim Eisert Simpson Sensory Garden contributes to both of those objectives by creating a new space for relaxation and study at WKU. The benefits of exploring sensory gardens are well documented, particularly as related to the improvement of physical and mental well-being.

“These types of spaces are more important than ever as many communities and college campuses struggle with increasing rates of depression and anxiety,” Dr. North said. “At WKU, we are attempting to create not just another outdoor space for our campus community but instead a space that is specifically designed to improve moods and stimulate cognition through our senses. It is our hope that all members of the WKU community will utilize the space for small meetings, classes, or just a moment of exploration and relaxation.”

“I hope this garden provides an engaging space for anyone and everyone to enjoy,” Simpson said. “I think we’ve combined interesting plants with new feature pieces and some historic architectural pieces from the WKU campus to create an interesting space that will evolve throughout the seasons of the year. The whole property is beautiful, and this special corner is a place that anyone can wander into and enjoy a quiet moment.”

This project also creates an applied learning opportunity for students, as students were involved in the development of the initial idea for a sensory garden and will be involved in maintenance and educational components that will continue to evolve in the space.

For Simpson, gardening is all about legacy and passing on information as well as plants and skills.

“My first memories are of my grandmother’s iris beds, and so I was really excited last week when my mom pointed out a specific iris in her yard that came from my grandmother,” Simpson said. “I associate memories of flowers and gardens with many of the relatives and neighbors that I grew up with in my life. Adding some of the plants that I have from these people to the garden pays tribute to them.”

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