Karen Berk, Colonial School District Director of Pupil Services and Special Education, joins students in the new Sensory Space at Whitemarsh Elementary School.

The Colonial School District’s K-3 Life Skills support class at Whitemarsh Elementary School recently held a celebration to dedicate their new Sensory Space. The Sensory Space includes elements the students can explore through seeing, hearing, touching and smelling. “It’s just a space [where] you can take your mind off of things,” said Maria Perrone-Filewicz, a WES third-grader. In the Life Skills support class, learning focuses on developing daily living skills, communications and functional academics that lead toward independence. The items in the Sensory Space help students with understanding cause and effect, and a large remote can be programmed to reinforce academic concepts like number or letter identification while controlling a bubble tube and aromatherapy panel. The bubble tube also helps with visual tracking, which is used in reading right-to-left and counting with one-to-one correspondence. The aromatherapy panel releases scents known to have calming effects for processing, increased attention and overall self-regulation. “The kids in this classroom, they have a lot that they’re fighting against, such as atypical brain development, a type of syndrome or a head injury. Sometimes, their brain just doesn’t cooperate. When they step into this space, their brain can slow down, and the child can experience their environment in a way we take for granted,” said Stephanie Brennan Malarski, teacher at Whitemarsh Elementary. “It’s a really fun time and huge motivator for them.” The Sensory Space is dedicated to former Colonial School District Special Education Supervisor Beth Maza who passed away in 2015.