The Shadow Project was selected by the Portland Public School (PPS) District in 2014 for its Read Together initiative, with the goal of all students reading well by the end of third grade. The Shadow Project is one of six reading and family organizations tapped by PPS to provide students at five pilot schools (Rosa Parks, Sitton, Bridger, James John, and Chief Joseph) with intensive, wrap-around literacy services for its students in special education.
In the spring of 2015, The Shadow Project began developing SuperSensory Literacy Spaces for the five pilot schools, with Oregon’s first officially launched at Rosa Parks Elementary in their learning center. The Super Spaces are unique classroom libraries specifically designed for children who need calming and/or stimulation for focus on reading, and include high-interest, multicultural print and audio books, fidgets, nubby cushions, and kinetic sand.
The resulting culture shift at Rosa Parks, with wider recognition amongst teachers about the needs of children with learning challenges, inspired Principal Tamala Newsome to request from The Shadow Project 18 Sensory Toolkits, one for each of her general education classrooms where children in special education spend 80 percent of their school day. The Sensory Toolkits contain a dozen sensory items recommended by PPS occupational therapists for calming and focus in the classroom. An accompaniment to the toolkits is a box of kinetic sand with pliable letters for focus on literacy. Click here to see a video on how sensory tools are helping children in general education classrooms.
“The Shadow Project provides wonderful incentives, but they do way more,” said Tamala. “We are the first school to have a sensory library, which is awesome, but kids also need access to tools for calming and focus so they can learn.
“Kids can’t learn if they are in the office,” she said. “We need to work collectively to keep students in the classroom.
“Students shouldn’t have to go to the learning center to get the tools they need to support learning. It really is about giving kids what they need wherever they are during the school day.”