Quinn Poppe, 5, plays in the “Under the Sea” sensory room. The squares he is stepping on have water and colors inside and squish out the colors without making a mess.

Quinn Poppe, 5, plays in the “Under the Sea” sensory room. The squares he is stepping on have water and colors inside and squish out the colors without making a mess.

Photo by Deb Jacques


New sensory room is the place to ‘sea’

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published March 22, 2021

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WARREN — The Warren Woods Public Schools Early Childhood Center, located inside the district’s Education Center on Frazho Road, recently unveiled a fun new room.

From sea anemone likenesses made from pipe cleaners to a cascading waterfall perfected from ventilation tubing and automotive funnel kits, there’s a new sensory room for preschoolers who need a place to calm down when having an off day.

With an “Under the Sea” theme, the sensory room offers a variety of activities for students to learn self-organization, self-regulation and relaxation. The district’s occupational therapy department partnered with Wayne State University, Macomb Community College, Eastern Michigan University and local businesses to create the sensory space.

Warren Woods Occupational Therapist/Transition Coordinator Michele Morgan said the room was made possible through the support of Early Childhood Coordinator Stacy Santamaria and Special Services Director Stacie Sward.

Several inexpensive and recycled items were used to shape the room. Morgan created a PDF file presentation to share with teachers or parents who might be interested in creating such a room at school or at home.

“I wanted to create this using everyday items so it was accessible for other families who wanted to create,” Morgan said.

“Pool noodles were converted to seahorses for students to ride during sensory breaks, with manes and tails added using recycled leather and fabric from the Michigan Design Center,” Morgan’s presentation stated. “A large plastic storage tote was converted into a calming ship, complete with steering wheel created with vinyl on a Cricut, and recycled wood and leather mast.”

The room features interactive puzzle boards with custom wood cutouts provided by clients at Therapeutic Rehab in Troy, Morgan said. Students within the district, including from Enterprise and Warren Woods Tower high schools, used various art techniques to customize pieces that decorate the sensory space. Other items include buried treasure sensory bins, a wave projector with Bluetooth speaker, and ocean-themed light diffusers.

Some activities contain various textures of sandpaper, colored gemstones, seashells and gold coins for the students to touch, which can help them get focused. A “jellyfish” tent, enclosed pirate ship, seek-and-find treasure chest and gel-filled underwater exploring bags were designed to engage the senses.

Enterprise High School senior Billy Butler was one of many students who put his own finishing touches on the room. Under the direction of the OT interns and Morgan, Butler made a few woodburning pieces, helped construct the waterfall and did some paint pouring. He also helped make fish balloons.

“We put cooking flour in balloons with googly eyes so the kids could have something to look at,” he said.

Butler worked on the projects in between getting his regular schoolwork done.

“They were fun to do, especially for the purpose,” Butler said, adding he thinks the room turned out “pretty good” for the preschoolers. “I really think they’ll enjoy it.”

Warren Woods Tower High School junior Angelina Trotta, a student in the Physically or Otherwise Health Impaired program, also was involved in putting together the room.

“I had a lot of fun making the sea creatures for the little kids to enjoy,” she said via text. “I want to make more for the kids someday. It was a lot of fun.”

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