Students from Level 1 Skills in Employment, Training and Personal Development at the South West College (SWC) Omagh campus have recently developed in conjunction with the Sustainability Department, a new outdoor space and sensory garden to address the lack of suitable outdoor space for students including those with learning difficulties and special educational needs.

The students identified an underused outdoor space at the Omagh campus situated at the Gallery restaurant beside the Strule River and completed extensive research to transform it into a usable area filled with sensory experiences. This area was a collaborative success and now includes benches and picnic tables purchased by the Sustainability Department, flowers planted with the Estates Department, and purpose-built planters designed and crafted by the Mitie team in Omagh.

Since the space’s development, the entire College community have benefited from the therapeutic space and have enjoyed participating in activities like Tai-Chi, Yoga, Mindfulness, and Bocca lessons. The key to maintaining this area for continuous use is students taking responsibility for tasks such as watering plants, litter-free maintenance, and making bird boxes, which will continue yearly as new students will be trained up by the previous students.

The students at SWC helped create this new space as part of a joint initiative with the Sustainability Department and the EPIC project-based learning (PBL) model, which is offered to students on different levels, at the College from entry level to honours degree.

Speaking about this contemporary approach to education, Gemma Dunn, EPIC project-based learning coordinator at SWC, said:

"Project-Based Learning has gained immense popularity, fostering students who are job-ready for the 21st century by actively engaging them in real-world projects and nurturing their entrepreneurial skills. It inspires critical and creative thinking, as well as problem-solving abilities among our students and the success of this pioneering project stands as a testament to its efficacy.

We are delighted that this space now serves a purpose, providing the entire college community an essential outlet where they can relax and enjoy, as well as a safe haven for students who may feel overwhelmed in the classroom. Even at this early stage, it has already dramatically enhanced the well-being and mental health of our students, particularly those with special educational needs.”

Supriya Foster on behalf of the Sustainability Department said:

“As part of our outreach and internal mentorship programs, the Sustainability department was honoured to facilitate this project. Our commitment to the Sustainable development goals, which the College uses as its guiding principles, includes the promotion of Health and Wellbeing. Sensory gardens play a crucial role in promoting well-being and inclusivity by engaging all the senses and providing therapeutic benefits.

“By creating wellness areas across our campuses, it is our hope that we can provide spaces where individuals can connect with nature, reducing stress and improving mental health. Furthermore, the diverse plant species in sensory gardens support biodiversity, aligning with our Sustainable Development Goal – 15 (life on land) on preserving and restoring ecosystems. We hope to continue working with our students to create healthier and more sustainable campuses.

For more information about EPIC project based learning at SWC, please contact Gemma Dunn: or for more information on Sustainability please contact Supriya Foster: