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Boise teacher ignites preschoolers' senses with sensory tools

Raven Gadient has begun incorporating sensory tools into her classroom to help promote child development.

BOISE, Idaho — Editor's note: This content is sponsored by CapEd Credit Union.

Some classrooms are taking a new approach to learning. They're doing it with the help of sensory tools and sensory play. If you're not familiar, sensory play is any activity that stimulates one or more of a kid's five senses: smell, sight, touch, taste, and hearing. 

These sensory tools can be a developmental building block of play and promote child development. For this reason, Raven Gadient, special education preschool teacher at Shadow Hills Elementary, has begun incorporating those sensory tools into each lesson.

“Play is so important,” Gadient said. “It creates opportunities for problem solving, motor development, language, development, all those different aspects.” 

She applied for and was awarded an Idaho CapED Foundation Teacher Grant to buy a variety of sensory tools for her kids to use in her preschool classroom. 

“A big part of it was we used it for bicycles or trikes, that can turn into 12 balanced bikes as well, just to provide some large motor activities that they can do outside,” Gadient said. “Our playground currently isn't the most accessible for preschool aged kids, you know, who are tiny, so having the bikes to give them that gross motor time outside has been really, really awesome.” 

She has six of those.

“Quite a few of the kids in my classroom have developmental delays. so sensory is a really important part of our day,” Gadient said. 

She also has sensory boxes filled with uncooked pasta, water beads, sand and salt. There are also cubes that allow her students t0 sort different shapes and colors. Gadient said these sensory tools help her older kiddos advocate for themselves.

“It helps them self-regulate, it helps them calm down, they get that sensory input that they need and then they're able to come back to whatever teacher-led activity we're doing, whether it's a math center, or a handwriting center, and they're refocused, their energies a lot calmer, and they're able to participate and get just more out of their educational experience,” Gadient said.

The tools have become even more valuable following the height of the pandemic.

“Kids, you know, they're so resilient, they're so wonderful, but they have had a lot of opportunities kind of taken from them, because of the isolation and the times, where we had to be virtual or where they have to stay at home,” Gadient said. “They're different than the generation of kids a few, you know, four or five years ago that we were teaching.”

“I learn so much from these kids. and it's been such a wonderful opportunity to just grow as an educator, learn new things with them. It’s been it's been a real pleasure,” Gadient said.

If you would like to nominate an innovative educator for us to feature, just email us at innovativeeducator@ktvb.com and tell us how they're going above and beyond. Educators, if you'd like information on submitting an application for a classroom grant, visit capedfoundation.org.

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