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Take a tour of Hardy Oak’s immersive Sensory Hallway

Hardy Oak Elementary School fourth grader Jackson Van De Vate can build LEGOs, leapfrog across lily pads, and play music all in the same hallway.

The colorful, immersive Sensory Hallway that Jackson loves so much started with an anonymous $1,000 donation to Melissa McDonald and her Alternative Learning Environment (ALE) students.

“I wanted something permanent that the whole population could use because so many kids need movement and sensory breaks throughout the day,” explained McDonald. “In this hallway, kids can be kids – they can explore, be creative, interactive and move while using all of their senses.”

The Sensory Hallway was a labor of love years in the making. A group of incredible volunteers spent more than 500 hours helping McDonald piece the hallway together. Jackson’s mother, Stefanie Van De Vate, was one of those volunteers. She believes the final product speaks for itself.

“I have a special ed child and a non-special ed child and they both love it,” said Van De Vate. “The kids call it the rainbow hallway and it really perks you up – it makes you happy.”

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is etched into every inch of the hallway – from the stretch of rainbow on the ceiling to the mirrors lined with affirmations like “I am brave. I am kind. I matter.” If you ask McDonald, this is all by design.

“SEL components are an important part of the hallway because my goal is to educate the whole child - which includes all of the human emotions and interactions that we all experience,” said McDonald. “I want students to know how loved, special, smart, strong, and brave they are, and for them to leave the hallway feeling better than when they entered it.”

Jackson and Stefanie Van De Vate with teacher Melissa McDonald A Hardy Oak Student builds on the LEGO wall

A student draws on the white board A student plays on the sensory mat on the wall

Posted by Lila Stanley
Posted on 1-4-22