Expanding Social-Emotional Learning

Expanding Social-Emotional Learning

An estimated 1 in 5 Oregon students has a disability or related challenge that impacts learning. Absent tools to address their needs, these capable students can act out their frustration. The result: a suspension rate more than double that of their peers. Centennial School District is committed to equity for students with disabilities and is partnering with Shadow to bring our SuperSensory Spaces to all the district’s elementary schools. Through this program 73% of students strengthen self-regulation, a key predictor of health and academic success.

“We want kids to be able to stay in class and learn,” says Denise Wright, Centennial’s Director of Student Services, “and we want staff have to tools and resources to support students.” Sensory spaces provide schools with comforting corners filled with tools that stimulate focus and attention and calm stressed and anxious children, many of whom also experience poverty-related trauma like hunger, homelessness, and neglect. Children like “Devan,” who repeatedly ran from his classroom and kicked students when the frustration of learning overwhelmed him, will get daily scheduled breaks in these spaces, and learn positive ways to deal with big emotions, setting them on a life-long course of success. Educator training will help staff examine how racial and cultural bias has led to far higher discipline rates for children of color, and use sensory spaces to bring those rates down. “Equity is our compass,” says superintendent Paul Coakley. “The Sensory Space project will increase our capacity to create a welcoming environment for our students to fully engage in learning.”

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