Sensory Smart Classroom.
(Whitney Bennett-Clear, Mathew Bruno, Sara Thompson & Kathy Roberts)
It is not uncommon to hear someone talk about being overstimulated. Have you ever considered that there may be an amount of stimulation that is just right? The team at Lincoln Middle School did just that. School social worker, Whitney Bennett-Clear saw a sensory need that was not being met, so she and Integrated Service teachers Sara Thompson and Mathew Bruno took on the challenge. Their goal was the integration of sensory tools within their classroom and out in student’s general education classrooms.
To make their dream a reality the team applied for a Supporting Partnerships in Innovative Education or SPIE Grant. SPIE Grants are designed for teachers to include innovative teaching materials for creative and inventive learning. The process was a true collaboration. Parent Stephanie Haynes worked closely with grant coordinator Stacy Poncelow to compose the grant with the Lincoln Middle School staffers. The group was awarded $2,346.92 with which they were able to purchase standing work desks, rocking chairs, balance stools, fidgets, light minimizing tools, scented oils, weighted blankets and more.
The philosophy behind the sensory smart classroom incorporates our need for sensory stimulation and depression. Think about it, there are times that we may be sluggish and think to have a cup of coffee or bounce a foot while concentrating. The purpose of these aids are to ramp-up energy or decrease sensory stimulation in order to focus. A target group of students, are working toward being able to identify and facilitate these needs. Mr. Bruno, Mrs. Thompson and Mrs. Bennett-Clear have streamlined the use of socially appropriate tools for students. The goal is for students to identify what they need to be successful and access it independently. Does someone feel that rocking would allow them to focus on the task at hand? Grab a rocking chair. Does someone feel that holding and manipulating something pliable would help them relax? Grab a fidget. The only way this is possible is if they are available. That was the vision for the Lincoln Middle School staff.
By providing tools, students are able to accommodate their sensory needs, in return the student agrees to a contract of sorts in which they agree to use them appropriately and responsibly. So what are their favorite sensory tools? Mr. Bruno likes the standing desk, Mrs. Bennett-Clear likes the rocking chairs, as do the students and Mrs. Thompson likes a firm desk top fidget.
Congratulations Sara Thompson, Mathew Bruno and Whitney Bennet-Clear on your 2014 SPIE Grant.