Donation from families to help Ox Ridge Elementary innovate
DARIEN — It’s not every day Luke Forshaw, principal of Ox Ridge Elementary, receives $5,000 to spend on his school. But when the generous family of four Ox Ridge graduates showed their appreciation for the school through a donation, Forshaw began thinking about how he could use the money to equip classrooms in innovative ways.
“This was unusual in that they said they love the school and we trust your vision,” Forshaw said, noting most donations are given with a specific cause in mind.
After several months of deliberation with the Board of Education (which is required to approve donations of this size), Forshaw decided to put the money towards moveable shelving for Ox Ridge classrooms. Forshaw is working with the school facilities’ office to price out the unit to equip as many classrooms as possible.
These shelves on wheels would not only allow teachers flexibility in the arrangement of their classrooms, but will work toward the Ox Ridge mission to employ innovative practices and more personalized learning.
“It’s been a long-standing theme to do what we can do to teach to kids’ needs,” Forshaw said. “Furniture is another way to equip teachers with ways to react to needs.”
Forshaw added the moveable furniture will make the classroom space more dynamic. The shelves are already in use in the school’s kindergarten classrooms where it’s used for things like helping students when working on group projects.
The shelves are not the only personalized learning aspect at Ox Ridge. The school already has a sensory gym for students who need to use the equipment to get energy out during the day.
The sensory gym features yoga mats and balls, a trampoline and even a swing which helps orient children with developing sensory systems.
The sensory gym is used by students in occupational therapy, but is open to use by all students with the permission of their classroom teacher. For some students, their gym schedule is more systematic, with time blocks set aside each day for them to go and use the sensory equipment.
“It empowers kids,” Forshaw said. “They have a agency. You want to teach kids strategies so they can control that energy.”
The Ox Ridge PTO is also joining the effort to help fund more personalized equipment for the school. While it’s still too soon to say what types of equipment the PTO wants to help the school get, Elizabeth Hole, PTO co-chair, said the school is one of several across the district looking to raise money to help modernize the school media center.
Hole also said the PTO is going to raise money for the school’s annual Maker Faire which combines science and creativity with different stations with things like Legos. The stations are run by students and often cater to their different talents. Last year, there was a student who did a Rubix cube station since he had a gift for solving them.
“They kind of get involved with other students to teach the other students how to do something which empowers them,” Hole said. “Teaching the younger students help them feel special and empowered.”