‘Truedell Public School Sensory Equipment’ project wins Awesome Kingston June grant

(L-R) Stephanie Shunk, Pamela Jacobs( principal) , Karen Nolan, and Merola Tahamtan are a team of Educational Assistants (EAs) with Trudell Public School in Kingston. Submitted photo.

Every month, Awesome Kingston awards a $1,000 grant to a local project that the trustees think will keep Kingston awesome. This month, the Truedell Public School Sensory Equipment project was awarded the honour.

A team of Educational Assistants (EAs) from Truedell Public School in Bayridge, who were familiar with the Awesome Kingston grant, were moved to pitch their project in hopes of supporting the students at their school.

“We knew Awesome Kingston was a group of community-based private citizens who want to encourage the people of Kingston to be creative, helpful, and innovative in our community,” said Merola Tahamtan, one of the Truedell EAs. “We knew that once AK knew of our plan, they would be moved to join in and help our students.”

Their pitch focused on supporting students who are dealing with issues that make it hard for them to pay attention or feel relaxed in stimulating environments. Purchasing sensory equipment for these students to support their learning is the goal of this project, and, according to Tahamtan, sensory equipment comes in many forms with many objectives.

“For the most part, sensory equipment helps students focus on one sense to regulate other overstimulated senses,” she explained. “For example, in our school, we have fidget toys to help students focus on listening by keeping busy hands calm. We also have a spinning chair that helps some of our students who may be feeling anxious or dysregulated feel calmer and manage big emotions. We also have students with excess energy who have a hard time remaining focused for long periods of the day. Providing them with a safe activity like riding a stationary bike can help them to regulate their bodies.”

Stephanie Shunk, another EA at the school, stated that their team of Educational Assistants works as support staff in classrooms, assisting teachers in carrying out education plans for students with exceptionalities to help them access the curriculum

“Our responsibilities vary from providing academic support, to reinforcing life skills, to using strategies to keep students safe and successful at school,” she stated. “We are fortunate at Truedell to have a strong school community with administration, teachers, support staff, and families. We like to think we put the EA in tEAm.”

The grant from Awesome Kingston will go towards purchasing more sensory equipment so that the team can support as many children as possible through their learning journey.

“Many students can benefit from sensory supports and who most needs them can vary from day to day,” said Shunk. “As a staff, we work hard to give each student what they need while in our care. Sensory supports are one of the ways Truedell P.S. is supporting an inclusive school environment where everyone’s needs are met.”

“We feel all students should belong in a safe place where they can learn to self-regulate and work out their overwhelming feelings to encourage a positive environment,” she continued. “We are all mothers ourselves of exceptional children who struggle daily with autism and ADHD. We understand the challenges of our students and want to provide the best school environment for them to thrive.”

Some of the sensory items and equipment that the team is interested in purchasing include:

Stationary Bikes
Bean Bag Chairs
Inflatable Pea Pods
Sensory Wall Tiles
Sensory Bubble Tube Tower

Tahamtan noted that space is at a premium in schools. “We were using different parts of the halls and classrooms to accommodate the need for sensory equipment. We realized that many students could benefit from a sensory space, so have arranged to use a room to store and organize all the sensory equipment and design it to be welcoming and calming for all our students.”

 “We feel lucky to be a part of this wonderful community,” she continued. “The receipt of this grant is only the start of our plans for this multi-purpose sensory space. Schools don’t receive government funding for these types of extra supports, so we are extremely excited to kick start our fundraising initiative with an Awesome Kingston grant. We have the support of our principal and hope our Parent Council will also consider supporting our initiative. We are so excited to share this space with all our students!”

Read more about Awesome Kingston and their monthly grants here.

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