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Garden Experience Tub and Braille Book

Using a garden theme, these activities promote tactile exploration and braille skills with students with multiple disabilities.

A student of mine is what I call “tactually hesitant”. She’s not defensive, just hesitant with new textures and experiences.  She is in a life skills class and is learning braille, and recently she surprised me! It took me nearly a school year for her to feel comfortable exploring a tub of dried beans and then a tub of uncooked rice. A couple of years ago I made her a “beach tub” based on the book “The Beach”

This year I created “The Garden”. Originally I was going to just call it “Dirt”, but with flowers in the mix, my student called it “The Garden”, so I changed it’s name. She willingly explored  the tub with NO hesitation! She helped create the sentences as well. I was going to braille “I feel…”, but she said, “I see…”. 

Putting Together an Experience Tub

We started with an “experience tub”, in which we gathered items related to the theme of gardening, including dirt, leaves, small stones, plastic bugs, artificial flowers, and rubber snakes.  We spent time looking at examples of real flowers, leaves, etc. before looking at the artificial ones to be sure that she was familiar with each of the items.  Using artificial ones allows the tub and book to last longer (and is also better than using real bugs and snakes!).

Plastic tub with dirt and garden items, such as flowers, bugs, worms, etc.

The goal was to encourage tactile exploration, while also familiarizing her with the items and using the vocabulary to talk about them.


Creating a Braille Story Book

This weekend I created her braille story book to go along with her vocabulary words and her experience tub. I used a combination of hot glue and clear Gorilla glue to secure the items to the page. And, yes, that is potting soil glued down to the page. I did a “glob” of hot glue and then pour dried potting soil on to it. tap down with a ruler and then waited for it to dry. Once it was dry, I shook off the extra dirt. 

All of the page of the braille story book are laid out on a table.


Title page of  Dirt with braille text


2 plastic bugs with braille text   3 small stones with braille text


Penny with braille text   2 leaves with braille text


2 rubber snakes with braille text   Artificial flowers with braille text



Items needed:

  •     potting soil, dried
  •     artificial flowers
  •     artificial leaves
  •     toy bugs
  •     toy snakes
  •     toy worms
  •     rocks
  •     pennies
  •     braille paper (11 x 11.5 cut in half)
  •     hot glue/gun
  •     clear Gorilla glue
  •     binding comb
  •     plastic tub with lid (shoe box size works best)

Building Vocabulary and Literacy Skills

Here’s the additional item I created for the activity. Her vocabulary words are in the red folder. Each word is brailled onto a note card with a notch cut out of the top right corner and then placed on rows of Velcro.   The word cards are stored on the top two rows, and the bottom strip is for placement of the words to create sentences or short phrases.. Currently she’s identifying a word when given a choice of two.

Vocabulary activity folder called   Garden vocabulary words on index cards in print and braille

I’m hoping to expand on this by brailling the words: I, see, a, and the. With these 4 additional words, I can encourage her to create and read sentences, as well as create sentences for her to read.

Update After Co-Treating with SLP

The speech therapist did what she always does and makes my lessons better! She thought we should have both the plural and the singular of each word.  She also wanted us to work on using adjectives to help her with describing things. Based on this conversation, I made some changes to the folder.  Personally, I REALLY like the changes. This is why I like to co-treat!  My focus is on the braille and the speech therapist is looking more at language. Together we create some pretty phenomenal lessons!

Vocabulary words on index cards


Vocabulary cards on braille strips

Completed Activity

This activity now has the tub, a book, and vocabulary activity folder.   

Experience tub, braille story book, vocabulary activity folder

Collage of garden experience tub and braille story

My Five Senses poster with tactile representation and words on it for see, taste, hear, touch, and smell. There is a flashlight for see, bell for hear, candy for taste, cotton for touch, and sticker for smell.

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