Sixth graders Ethan Epstein, Brandon Liu, and Mandy Wirt decided that they wanted to make a difference and set out to create a portable multi-sensory environment for children with disabilities. After visiting multi-sensory classrooms provided by the Jane Johnson Foundation and known as Jane’s Rooms, the trio learned about how help children with disabilities to improve their health and quality of life by increasing brain activity, promoting relaxation, and giving them some control over their environment. “The kids really touch us and we wanted to do something to improve their lives,” says Wirt. 

 

After studying various materials, the team sought out inexpensive sensory items from their own homes and local stores. Calling themselves the Sandpipers, the team made the structure of their Portable Multi-Sensory Unit (PMSU) with PVC pipe and plastic pegboard, and attached the sensory items inside. They proceeded to test the effectiveness of their device along a rating scale similar to those used by educators and got very positive results. 

 

The Sandpipers submitted their invention to both the eCybermission competition and the Christopher Columbus Awards this year. Out of 1,763 teams, the Sandpipers were chosen as one of the top 16 to compete in the eCybermission finals in Washington, D.C. this past June. And at the Christopher Columbus Awards National Championship Week, the team won one of two national gold medals for the PMSU. The sixth-graders hope to team up with Kids Korps USA to build more units for children in need and raise funds to attend the American Association of Multi Sensory Environments conference next spring.   RINA VAN ORDEN