Is Duquesne getting a sensory garden?

Courtesy of Kasey Stepansky | Give your input on what you want to see in Duquesne's new sensory garden by scanning the QR code and filling out the form.

Naomi Girson & Emma Polen | Staff Writer & Editor-in-Chief 

Imagine a place on Duquesne’s campus with bright colored flowers blanketing the ground, buzzing bees and delicate butterflies, all for a student to enjoy right here on the Bluff.

It may sound too good to be true, but Duquesne is planning on embedding a sensory garden on campus in an effort to bring more nature and increase the quality of life for students.

A sensory garden is a garden that appeals to all five senses.

The garden’s goal is to offer a new and inviting place in the natural environment that can boost focus and help stressed-out students relax. It is a completely optional environment to spend time in and enjoy. The oasis’ job is to help students forget the worries that college can bring.

Currently, in Pittsburgh, there is a fully functioning sensory garden at Chatham University. They have interactive features, including hands-on artwork, a bench swing, lavender and plants that offer an interesting and unique texture.

According to Chatham University’s website, their occupational therapy students originally suggested it and the school took their suggestion to heart to make it a reality.

Kasey Stepansky, a clinical assistant professor in the department of occupational therapy at Duquesne, was the one who helped make the sensory garden at Chatham. Stepansky is now trying to make one at Duquesne’s campus.

“I would be interested to see if this is the type of space that students would want, especially on an urban campus,” Stepansky said.

Currently, Duquesne is trying to get students more involved by gathering opinions of what should be in the sensory garden.

The Duke asked students what they wanted to see.

Freshman pharmacy student Caitlynn Collantes did not know what a sensory garden was, but upon learning more about it thought it would be great on campus.

“I feel like that would be nice for the community,” Collantes said. “[It would be] a way to get some time in the environment.”

Regarding the specifics, she felt that fruit trees would be too much upkeep, and fruits such as apples would rot before they would be consumed. Instead, she suggested colorful fruit bushes, such as strawberry and blueberry bushes.

Collantes did like the idea of not only a bench swing but also regular swings. She felt it would bring out the “inner child in students.” She even suggested a slide.

Altogether, she felt that she would spend time in the sensory garden, as it beats hanging out on Rooney Field and trying to avoid a football to the head.

Freshmen physical therapy student Cailyn Laorsa and health science student Emma Sutton said they especially liked the idea of a hammock, lavender, eucalyptus and any flowers that offer a pleasant scent.

Sutton thought that the sensory garden would offer something new to campus.

“[A sensory garden] would be something cool and different,” Sutton said. “It would be cute to look at, even if you are just passing it.”

They echoed Collantes’ sentiment with enthusiasm for getting swings for the garden.

Senior Kweku Parker, studying finance and marketing and Duquesne alumnus Dylan Ashton, really liked the tranquility that a sensory garden would bring to campus.

Apple trees and orange trees, waterfalls and windchimes were all on their wishlist to experience at the sensory garden.

Ashton even suggested creating a sanctuary for animal visitors, or at least implementing flowers and plants that would bring more diverse wildlife to campus.

Currently Parker said he spends time outside on campus where he can find the most nature.

“Honestly, when I want to sit down I go kind of near the grotto,” Parker said. “That’s where there’s the most nature.”

Since Duquesne’s campus is located in the city, Lindsey Loeser said that it’s harder to find places where you can be in nature. The sensory garden would offer a place for students to have some relaxation and peace.

Loeser also talked about the limited outside seating on campus, especially on nice days, when everyone wants to be outside. When she does spend time outside she likes to sit outside the library, or at the new pavilion.

For the specific features Loeser liked the idea of adding a fountain in the garden, it would offer peaceful sounds. She also liked the idea of a bench swing.

“We [Duquesne] pride ourselves on having that community aspect, ” Loeser said. “This garden would be very special.”

They’re looking for student feedback, so send a message to if you have suggestions, or scan the QR code (attached) to choose from a list of pre-designed sensory elements.