Special needs children face challenges every day. As part of my Eagle Scout Service Project, I wanted to support these children in a crucial area – sensory activity. My mom does part-time substitute teaching and prefers to work with special needs students at Buffalo Trail Elementary School. One day, she mentioned that it would be nice if the students at her school could have more engaging sensory activities. This got me thinking about ways I could provide the students with their needs. Ultimately, I decided that I would design and build two sensory activity tables for my Eagle Project.
First, I researched sensory stimulation, as well as its needs and considerations. Activities help children develop appropriate responses to stimuli and can enhance their learning experience. They can also facilitate better visual, auditory, and tactile processing. In doing so, children can learn how to regulate their behaviors in a comfortable environment. However, some may be more sensitive to their environment and inclined to overstimulation. Using this information, I compiled a list of possible sensory activities that could be used. Next, I thought a table would be the most appropriate means to present and organize these activities for the students. I leveraged the activity table’s general design from a table my dad built for me when I was younger for my own activities (e.g., building train tracks, playing with Legos, playing with cars, etc.).
I then met with a Special Education Program teacher from Buffalo Trail Elementary School to discuss the proposal, gather requirements (e.g., size, height, features), and start planning the project. With the requirements in hand, I proceeded to make one of the tables as a prototype. This helped me fine-tune the process, materials, and design of the tables. I then used this experience to model the way for the second table. For example, originally, the table legs’ dimensions were slightly too small to secure the caster wheels with all four screws. For the sake of stability, I expanded the legs using an additional 2”x 2” board, enabling the caster wheels to be appropriately fastened to the legs. Once the prototype was completed, I planned out how to best execute the construction with other Scouts and participants. This included determining the order of how different pieces would be built, what teams would make what parts, how to maintain quality and safety, who would be on what team, how to motivate the team, and which participants could use what tools.
To account for COVID-19, I pre-screened the participants based on my Troop’s checklist. I also provided masks, hand sanitizers, and face shields on the build date. Social distancing was also employed (when applicable) to guard against transmission.
The most challenging part of the project was planning. There were many aspects to consider, including measurements, materials, supplies, tools, and safety. Other considerations included what activities to use and how to manage and lead Scouts to complete the project. Although it was a bit tedious and demanding, this process helped me improve my critical thinking and planning skills, including determining the budget, procedures, and logistics.
My favorite parts of the project were seeing the development of my ideas take shape. Its completion left me satisfied, especially seeing how beneficial the outcome is. What started as merely an idea became tangible objects that will benefit students over many years.
The most important things I learned from completing my project were communication, leadership, and planning skills. Being able to communicate effectively with the beneficiary, Scout leaders, and the Scouts who assisted me, whether through email or speech, was crucial to the project’s completion. With this came improved leadership skills, as I was able to better formulate courses of action and efficiently construct the tables.