Sensory and Storytelling Umbrellas
When you listen to a speaker you need to be inspired. Your mind needs to fill with ideas as they speak. I had the pleasure of listening and watching Flo Longhorn at a conference late last year and came away with a desire to rush out and put these ideas into practice. The idea that particularly grabbed me was that of the sensory umbrella. Also called the storytelling umbrella these are very simple highly immersive storytelling props. You might also like our Sensory sunshade post
Update: I have now used a Sensory Umbrella for part of a Sensory Story for the Blue Abyss topic with my Key stage 3 PMLD cohort.
I made this sensory umbrella for our new Egyptian Adventure Sensory Story to increase the level of immersive experiences linked to the theme.
This video shows me doing by best “Art Attack” moment.
Space Themed Sensory Umbrella Sky Full of Stars
How fantastic to create a sky full of planets to enhance your space theme resources. Or aircraft, helicopters for your transport topic. These can be revealed as slowly as you like to build anticipation. In the dark of the sensory room some cheap LED bulb stars create a immersive self contained story telling prop. There are no demands, this is not a worksheet.
If you have a tube of planets you can attach each one with velcro and each planet can be plucked from the sky.
Age vs Stage Appropriate
We struggled for a while a few years ago about age appropriateness at our school. Flo summed up what we now do “Person appropriate” quite right. What stimulates and engages your student? Use this build on it. Capture their imagination then give the power to the student to use your resources how they want. Who says your idea is the best? Who says there is only one way to do things? The first thing my daughter said when I had made the planet one was “Where’s the sun?”. So for the plane one we used a see through umbrella so we could use the light as the sun (or even take it outside to use the real sun).
Below is our “silent firework umbrella” from bonfire night. Not everyone likes the bang, but the lights – maybe.
Sourcing Resources For Sensory Umbrellas
The better quality umbrella you can find the longer they will last and safer they are to use. The problem with poundland umbrellas is they scrunch up into themselves. I feel a beg, borrow and um.. scavenge approach is good, if you can get your hands on the huge golfing umbrellas they really are great. You can fit a few sensory learners beneath your creation. These umbrellas from Amazon are good for planes etc so the real sky can be seen through the material.
A PMLD/SEN Art and Craft Activity
Here is a brief summary of ideas for using sensory umbrellas as a craft activity for students with PMLD: Sensory umbrellas make a great multisensory activity that students with PMLD can engage with.
- Glitter glue or finger paint applied to plastic for visual textures
- Scraps of fur, feathers or crinkly paper glued on for tactile interest
- Sequins, pompoms or googly eyes added for cause and effect stimulation
- Scented fabrics like lace with essential oils for smell
- Ribbons, streamers or paper shapes attached that move in the breeze
Teaching staff can guide students to feel the different materials, make choices about textures and watch cause and effect of moving parts. Umbrellas also provide covered spaces that some students may find calming. Once completed, umbrellas can be used indoors with a fan or taken outdoors on sunny or not too windy days. The activity provides enrichment through sensory exploration and active engagement in the creative process.
Anyway you have seen my attempts at creating an immersive learning experience using sensory umbreallas. The video below shows some Flo and her colleagues have designed, including cultural umbrellas.
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