UWEC Professor, Students Collaborate with Children’s Museum to Create Sensory Room
Dr. Kirstin Rossi led students in designing, creating sensory room in the new Children’s Museum of Eau Claire
The new Children’s Museum of Eau Claire is slated to open in early January, and with it comes a fully-equipped sensory room created to give kids (and adults) a place to regulate themselves if they become overstimulated. This room was designed by Dr. Kirstin Rossi, a UW-Eau Claire special education and inclusive practices professor, and a few of her students.
Rossi is on the museum board and was approached to create a space that would allow kids to regroup and reenter the museum after becoming overwhelmed or overstimulated. Usually, if kids get overstimulated it would cause the whole family to have to leave, but the hope with this space is that kids can regulate themselves and then reenter the museum when they’re ready.
Rossi immediately asked her students for help and nine volunteered: Lainey Walworth, Grace Groh, Hannah King, Clara Dobratz, Abby Kroeger, Rhea Schaberg, Taylor Bangert, Lydia Johnson, and Lexi King.
The group began researching and working together to create a sensory room with four main components: environmental materials (curtains, a swing, etc.), a calm-down corner with different sensory items, the overall sensory input (tactile sensory wheel, fidgets, etc.), and re-engagement tools like sensory backpacks that can be taken throughout the museum.
“I’m so proud of my students,” Rossi said. “They rocked every part of this. They were phenomenal in taking what they learned and applying it in real life to create real change. They’re not getting paid and this isn’t for a grade, it’s all from their passion for kids and access for all.”
After laying out the room and hand-picking all of the furniture and other components, the group will also be heavily involved in setting up the room and making any adjustments that may be necessary after the museum opens and they can observe how the kids use the space.
The group will also be observing the kids in all of the exhibits in the museum and will be creating a sensory map to help kids and guardians know where in the museum they may feel overstimulated or have other issues.
“Our hope is that this space can provide knowledge and resources for guardians to be aware of their child’s sensory needs and provide workshops and other opportunities in the community to have this be normalized so everyone can be aware of their sensory needs,” Walworth said.
“Hopefully this could be a model that other places can adopt one day,” Groh added. “This is the kind of thing that happens everywhere. People get overwhelmed in public places, it’s not even just children. It’s something we want to continue with beyond just the building of this room.”
The sensory room is located on the second floor of the museum near the “Body Smarts” exhibit for if and when a child may need it.
To learn more about the Eau Claire Children's Museum, you can go to childrensmuseumec.com.