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Virginia Beach students get hands-on learning with new sensory gym

Students at one Virginia Beach school try out their new sensory gym on their first day of class.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The COVID-19 pandemic created a tough environment for student learning last year. A school in Virginia Beach is taking a new approach to reduce stress this school year.

Chesapeake Bay Academy has added a sensory gym for students.  

On the first day of school, fifth-grader Bryson just finished a math equation on the top floor of the academy's new sensory gym. He got the problem correct and was able to jump into a foam pit. 

“It was right. Come here, five, jump, go," said Academy Head of School Dr. Judy Jankowski. 

The sensory gym also has a zip-line, swings, a tunnel made out of dry-erase boards, and many other items to use their senses. Fifth-grader Lili was sitting down and touching a string of lights during her time in the gym. 

“I love how it, like, has a really nice sensory feel at the bottom and top,” she said.

“It’s a place where we’re going to help you to do your work and be successful both academically and socially and emotionally," Jankwoski explained.

Every piece of furniture in the room has a function.

“For instance, the canoe that’s across from me is built so that it hugs kids so they get that sensory feeling, that stimulation that helps them calm," said Jankwoski. 

She said the sensory gym will hopefully get students to feel comfortable back at school again, following a year of virtual learning.

“We really need to look at children as whole human beings and that schools are places that educate the entirety of a child," said Jankwoski. 

Chesapeake Bay Academy has many different programs of learning for students to keep calm, including yoga. 

The academy is following all state rules having children wear masks and disinfecting the gym equipment after every use.

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