Eleva-Strum students help build sensory safe space bus

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 9:46 PM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Western Wisconsin high school students have the chance to work on a project that will impact the lives of young children.

Eleva-Strum High School’s Cardinal Manufacturing program gives students a unique hands-on experience. Garrett Zimpel is the student engineer for the program. He says it’s more than just a school program and that it’s like a real-world job.

“We get to do a lot of things many high schoolers don’t get to do and it’s a real-world experience here,” Zimpel said.

One of their latest jobs is working with Eau Claire’s custom tiny home builder deconstruction company, No Boundaries Tiny Homes, on converting a shuttle bus into a sensory safe space for DC Everest School Districts 4k program.

Zimpel says this could be the first of its kind.

“When I heard about the project, I looked into it and I found out that no one else has these and that surprised me because I thought I was going to have something to go off of,” Zimpel said. “Right now, we’re basically going to be building this from the ground up ourselves.”

An occupation therapist working with the DC Everest, Alison Vlietstra, says the 4k program caters to children aged three and four. She says not all, but some have some kind of disability.

“Some of them have sensory processing regulation disabilities and some of them have autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, some just have developmental delays,” Vlietstra said.

Vlietstra and early childhood speech-language pathologist, Molly Lepak travel to the daycare centers and homes of kids in the 4k program.

“Having this bus will be a really nice option to take it to them and give them that really nice space they need at the moment and then, like we said, get them back into the classroom,”Lepak said.

With a bus gifted by Lamers Bus Lines and funding from their school, Vlietstra and Lepak could have a traveling sensory space.

“We would ideally be able to bring the bus right to them at the location and they could come out to us and we could give that regulation, that movement break,” Vlietstra said.

Kids could use the space to be active or move around or some for something more calming like listening to music to decompress.

Wyatt Miland is the production manager for Cardinal Manufacturing. He says a project like this can be used for many years.

“It’s very cool to me and I feel like since we know it’s going to be used for years to come and it’s just humbling to know these kids are going to be safe and it’s going to help them,” Miland said.

The sensory safe space bus will be completed over the summer and be ready for use at the start of the DC Everest’s 2022 school year.

To learn more about Cardinal Manufacturing, click here.

To learn more about No Boundaries Tiny Homes, click here.

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