BERLIN — Just in time for spring, students from Salisbury University’s Social Work program have created an outdoor reading garden at Berlin Head Start.

“We thought the children may be more encouraged to read if they were not stuck inside the classroom all day,” said Salisbury University (SU) student Amber Wallace.

Along with fellow students Brittany Faulk and Venessa Owens, and as part of their Macro Community requirements, Wallace’s group decided to focus on a project that would benefit young children.

“My group decided to focus on my internship because I work with small children,” said Wallace, who interns with the Worcester County Health Department’s Early Intervention program.

Once they settled on a reading garden at Berlin Head Start, Wallace said the support from the town and community was incredible.

“We had 95 books donated and 64 music CDs and VHS tapes donated to offer the five classrooms,” she said.

Worcester Youth and Family Counseling Services’ (WYFCS) Berlin Youth Club, headed by Melanie Windsor, also volunteered to maintain the garden each season while a number of Berlin area businesses donated items to the garden. According to Windsor, the reading garden succeeds on several fronts.

“More and more of the activities that young children are drawn to involve being inside. I was happy to both help the SU students with the project, as well as involve the Berlin Youth Club in the garden, using it as an activity to promote community service and exposure to the outdoors. We plan to become involved in more community projects such as this one throughout the summer and beyond,” she said.

The SU students hope that the garden will be incorporated into teachers’ everyday lesson plans.

“Aside from the literacy aspect of the project, we also hope that the garden and flowers can become a new learning experience for the teachers to introduce to their students,” Wallace said.

As for the experience creating the garden, she added that her group benefited just as much as the children who will use the garden.

“This project has been wonderful and a great learning experience. I am able to recognize the connections between the [social work] literature and practicing in the field,” said Wallace. “Salisbury University’s Social Work program ensures the readiness and success of all of their students.”