University Counseling Center Partners with Islander Green Team for New Sensory Garden

By Olivia Santos | Published: September 29, 2020

University Counseling Center Partners with Islander Green Team for New Sensory Garden

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Working together to bring a new self-care and mental health resource to Islander students, the University Counseling Center (UCC) and the student-led Islander Green Team are teaming up for a new Stress Relief Sensory Garden. The garden is located adjacent to the Driftwood Building, which houses the University Counseling Center.

“Interestingly enough, the idea for this garden came about when we ordered the wrong size flower beds for the already established University Garden near the boat barn. We didn’t want them to go to waste,” said Jordan Rodriguez, environmental science major and president of Islander Green Team. “Everyone was on board, and we were really excited to build a garden in a more accessible location for students. In a time like this, it has been tough for students to get out, so our hopes are that this garden space will serve as another opportunity for students to get involved and relax in a hands on way.”

A project eight months in the making, the garden was originally set to make its debut last spring but was put on hold as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Island University welcomed students, faculty, and staff this fall, Green Team members wasted no time gathering support and supplies to bring this new symbol of hope to students in need. Kicking off their weekly workday, student volunteers joined by Islander counseling staff hit the dirt in the hopes of growing something new.

“Research has shown that spending time outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine can boost mood and improve health,” said Dr. Theresa Sharpe, UCC Director. “Spending even one-minute gazing at a flower or rubbing some rosemary between your fingers and inhaling the fragrance, allows you to pause and slow down and savor the moment. Regular mindfulness practice can help calm and focus the mind.”

According to an article on verywellmind.com, some of the most effective self-care strategies involve one or more of the five senses – touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound.

“We intentionally chose beautiful plants that are nice to the touch or have a pleasing smell. For the Counseling Center, it was important to consider those sensory elements,” Sharpe said. “Over the past few months, we have worked together on planning and organizing, but the students have really been the driving force and deserve most of the credit for initiating this project and making it a reality. They are phenomenal and we are so grateful to partner with them.” 

Looking to the future, both the UCC and Islander Green Team have hopes to grow the space with benches and additional flower beds. Students, staff, and faculty are welcome to visit the garden any time and enjoy a mindful break that engages the senses.

The Sensory Stress Relief Garden is the latest example of the UCC extending their reach beyond the physical walls of their building. Since the beginning of the fall term, Counseling Center staff have hosted or participated in 64 virtual events reaching over 500 Islanders. Sample events have included Coping with COVID, Brain Breaks, and Coping Toolbox.  

For Islander students seeking mental health resources, the University Counseling Center offers a variety of online resources such as the TAO Self-Help mobile app, weekly workshops, anonymous mental health screenings, a virtual Relaxation Room, virtual phone consult hours, and tele-mental health appointments. Visit https://counseling.tamucc.edu/ for a look at hours and services.

Islanders who are interested in working in the gardens can visit islandergreen.tamucc.edu/ for more information.