IMB Bank grant provides new equipment for Minerva School students

Sensory help: Assistant principal Sarah Ellingham, student Alessandro Balaguer, principal John Mazzitelli and student Billy Harrison with the new 3D printer. Picture: Chris Lane
Sensory help: Assistant principal Sarah Ellingham, student Alessandro Balaguer, principal John Mazzitelli and student Billy Harrison with the new 3D printer. Picture: Chris Lane

Minerva School at Sutherland has been able to purchase specialised furniture and resources to help students with sensory difficulties thanks to a $10,000 grant from IMB Bank.

The funding was made possible through IMB Bank Community Foundation (ICF) and was used to buy a range of learning equipment.

Among the items purchased was an adjustable flexible desk and stools which can be adapted to suit student learning styles; a sensory chair, which can rock to calm students; a flip-top desk with whiteboard for creative engagement; and a pedal desk - a stationary bike with desk attachment, which allows students to regulate their behaviour so they can optimise their education.

A range of new sensory calming tools such as mini trampolines, fitballs and therapy putty were also provided so students can calm anxieties and concentrate for longer periods, while a new 3D printer was also purchased.

The printer will allow students to become more engaged in the STEAM curriculum by making their own fidget tools to help with regulation and jigsaw puzzles to improve their fine motor skills.

Minerva School caters for 44 students from Kindergarten to year 12 students with mild to moderate intellectual disabilities and or emotional issues. Many students have associated needs due to sensory processing disorders, behavioural difficulties or autism.

Pedal power: Billy Harrison tries out the new pedal desk. Picture: Chris Lane

Pedal power: Billy Harrison tries out the new pedal desk. Picture: Chris Lane

School principal John Mazzitelli thanked IMB Bank for its support of the students and their learning.

"Furniture and learning resources enable our students to be provided with meaningful and relevant learning experiences that encourage focus and engagement with the curriculum for longer periods," Mr Mazzitelli said.

He said the 3D printer had provided a new way to teach and motivate students.

"Students are excited to learn and eager to watch their designs become a reality," he said.

"The overall enthusiasm towards STEAM and learning has increased.

"Students who are typically reluctant learners have come to life with this new technology. It is really wonderful to see."

Billy is among the students to benefit from the increase in sensory options in the classroom.

His mother, Alicia, said she had noticed more positive learning outcomes since he began using the new pedal desks.

"Billy is loving the pedal desk at school. His concentration and attention to tasks have improved greatly and he has also improved his reading and comprehension, which is a joy to see," she said.

"The desk allows him to move and gain sensory input in an appropriate way while being able to engage in activities."

The Foundation has donated more than $10 million over 21 years. In the past three years alone, Sutherland Shire groups have received more than $300,000 in grants.