VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Chesapeake Bay Academy unveiled its new sensory gym Monday.
Sensory spaces have been around for decades but are not common in schools. Chesapeake Bay Academy, a school that focuses on individualized education to teach students with a variety of learning differences, created the space to cater to students of all abilities and styles of learning.
From climbing walls, a foam pit and zipline, to quiet spaces, a fiber optic fidget corner and tunnel, there’s something in the gym for everyone.
Judy Jankowski, who serves as the CBA head of school, told 10 On Your Side sensory gyms are a place where children can feel empowered and gain the confidence to succeed in all areas of life.
“We offer kids a space and an approach to education that empowers them,” Jankowski explained.
If a child has trouble sitting still in class, then they can burn off energy by climbing the rock wall or monkey bars. For children who are anxious or overstimulated, there’s a quiet “cave” where they can decompress.
“If you feel anxious or have anxiety, you can just [be] calm, that’s your safe place,” said 14-year-old Kate Sivils, who attended the open house and tested out her school’s new gym.
“When you’re out of sorts, when your emotions are running the show, then you are not available for learning and for our students — particularly kids with learning differences — it’s so important for them to feel centered, to feel confident,” Jankowski stated.
The space also gives students the opportunity to take the lessons they’ve learned in the gym back to the classroom.
“Take a risk in a safe environment and when you can do that in this framework then you can do it in a classroom too,” Jankowski said.
Jankowski told 10 On Your Side it took one week for Fun Factory Sensory Gym LLC to build CBA’s own sensory gym and that the space was funded by various donors.