• Dogwood Celebrates
    Sensory Courtyard

    Posted by Josh Flory on 5/24/2019
    Students navigate a footpath during a ribbon-cutting for Dogwood Elementary's new Outdoor Sensory Courtyard.
    Students navigate a footpath during a ribbon-cutting for Dogwood Elementary's new Outdoor Sensory Courtyard.

    An unused courtyard at Dogwood Elementary School has been transformed into a space to help students stay calm and focused.

    On Wednesday, students and staff celebrated the opening of a new Outdoor Sensory Courtyard, a project made possible by a $4,154 grant from the Great Schools Partnership.

    The fully enclosed space was renovated to add several features, including a tinkering wall with sliding locks, caster wheels and texturized brushes; a life-cycle mural that aligns with state standards; shade sails for hot days; and a footpath with stones and other sensory objects.

    The idea is to assist students with discipline or attendance challenges by providing features that reduce the symptoms associated with anxiety and trauma.

    Dogwood Principal Lana Shelton-Lowe said the project not only provides an area for students to calm down, but also will serve as an outdoor learning space.

    “I’m proud of the teachers for writing this grant,” she said. “This was a lot of work.”

    The project was funded through the Great Schools Partnership TeacherPreneur program, which  provides grants aimed at fostering creative problem-solving by teachers. Applications for the next round of grants can be submitted through August 27.

    The Dogwood grant was led by 4th-grade teacher Kylee Haynes and special education teacher Ashley Brooks, along with GSP School Resource Coordinator Kara Strouse.

    Haynes said that because the space had been unused for so long, teachers began brainstorming about how it could be re-worked to benefit students.

    And besides the benefits of using the various features, Haynes said watching the courtyard take shape has been instructive for students, as it helped them understand “what it looks like to go through different challenges and learn from them.”

    Following the ribbon-cutting ceremony, 4th-grader Abigail Lawson demonstrated an egg-shaped chair with a folding hood, which is designed to provide a calm space for students. Lawson predicted that the chair will be helpful for other students: “Some people just want to chill out and be in their own little mind of their own.”