To create a safe classroom based sensory space for children with special educational needs and mental health concerns.
Initial Research Areas
Initial Ideation and Sketches
Proof of Principle Modelling
This shows my design process in my final year of university and my major project. The first semester was spent identifying the problem and conducting vast amounts of research to fully understand the problem in order to create a solution.
The problem I decided to approach was "how can design thinking improve children's lived experience and ability to access learning throughout their time in school?". I have volunteering in primary schools for 6 years and have seen first hand children struggling to access their learning due to special educational needs, mental health issues and trauma. More children with these additional needs are in mainstream school environments I felt it was important to focus on improving accessibility for these children.
On this page you will find my research, sketches, modelling and the final concept. My report and logbook detailing and explaining all elements of my projects can be downloaded from below.
Positive Feedback from Education Sector
“A resource like ZenDen is something that would solve an issue which we have been trying to resolve for a number of months. The ZenDen would create a space for pupils to find a safe space during their times of need, in an area of the school they feel secure.
We have a pupil in Year 5 who struggles during inputs in lessons, and often sits in the doorway or under a table to be away from her peers. To provide her with this would be a wonderful opportunity, one where she doesn’t feel self-conscious yet is still present in the room to access the lesson content.”
- Deputy Headteacher, Mainstream Primary School, Dorset
“I can see the Zen Den being an incredibly useful resource to support children when in crisis. At our school we are limited with space and break out rooms so this would be the perfect solution especially as it looks so easy to set up and is not a permanent structure.”
- Headteacher, Mainstream Primary School
“My school are certainly in need of something like this as we are lacking space to provide a sensory room. It looks compact, yet the space inside has really been utilised - the children would really benefit from the sensory board, lighting and dark space. Please let me know if this is ever produced, I would happily purchase one for my school.“
- Special Educational Needs Coordinator, Mainstream Primary School, Bristol
“I have worked in SEN education for 12 years and was really impressed with the design of the ZenDen. The inclusion of lights and a sensory board would really benefit a lot of learners and provide them with calming and regulating stimuli. I love the fact that it can be folded away easily and set up in any classroom too as the lack of space is a real issue for many schools. It provides a calming, safe place for students to seek out ways to regulate themselves at times of need or just to enjoy the different materials and components of the carefully thought-out design. I can see it being a really popular and effective space across a lot of settings.”
- SEN Lead, Specialist Provision School, Southampton
“I think this is an excellent idea. The current climate in
school has led to a need for schools to meet more
complex needs whilst having access to significantly less
resources. The availability of a flexible space like this
would be hugely beneficial to many schools.
As far as a SEND school is concerned, I would certainly be interested in this! As a concept and as it currently exists...this is an excellent idea!!!!!!!!”
- Headteacher, Specialist Provision School, Dorset
“I have looked at the design of the ZenDen with the pastoral team at my school. We think the idea is great and will be much needed by many schools. If they were available to purchase we would be look to buy three or four now.
Schools are facing significant financial issues and increasing numbers for pupils with additional needs that struggle to cope with the mainstream classroom. The ZenDen would enable schools like ours that are over subscribe with all classes full to 30-32 pupils use what limited room we have more flexibly. We have had the need for a designated sensory space for pupils for some time now but do not have the physical space in the building to facilitate it. The ZenDen would enable us to use some of our multi-purpose break out space as a sensory calming space.
Please let me know how this project goes and if I was you I would look at protecting this concept through a patent if I was you.”
- Headteacher, Mainstream Primary School, Gloucester
I loved the name you have chose for this project, it’s a catchy name and appropriate for schools. It is described as a “sensory space for mainstream primary schools”. I wouldn’t limit this product to mainstream schools - as a special school I would look at purchasing something like this.
Overall, I feel that this is a well-thought out piece of equipment that could be very valuable in a number of different schools or possibly clubs. This is an area that I often consult on with mainstream schools and a resource that I know a number of them would look at purchasing. If this does go in to development, please let me know!"
- Executive Headteacher, Specialist Provision School, Slough
“I think the ZenDen would be an amazing addition to any classroom. The fold down aspect of it would work really well for our school, as being a 1 form entry school we are particularly short on space. We are finding as time goes on, we are witnessing more and more dysregulated children, especially in KS1. To have something like the ZenDen that could be unfolded when needed would allow less sensory overload, calm and privacy- a safe space for coregulation and de-escalation to occur. We are currently undergoing the Nurture UK Nurturing Schools Programme, and the ZenDen fits in perfectly with the nurture principle “the classroom offers a safe base”. We have a few children who will hide under tables - again this would be a much safer and appropriate alternative. We use calm boxes in each classroom, which include things like fidgets, grounding
strategies, cuddly toys, bubbles, heavy blankets- the ZenDen would be a great place to explore these activities with a child. If you take this product further, I’d love to know so that I can put a request forward to my Headteacher!”
- Nurture Intervention Teaching Assistant, Mainstream Primary School, Kent
“We were very happy to facilitate the trial of the ZenDen. There is an ever-increasing need across the primary education sector for designated spaces that will enable children with specific learning needs or disabilities to regulate.
Mainstream schools such as ours do not have these spaces and the constraints of
budgets make it challenging to develop them. This is where the ZenDen comes
into its own. It provides this space within the classroom, which is the right place to
ensure inclusion and avoid further distress by having to go elsewhere. The sensory element inside the ZenDen is good for enabling children to deescalate, without causing a distraction to other children. The genius of it is that it doesn’t impose on the classroom as it can be folded up to the wall. The feedback from the class teacher and the children has been superb and they are keen to have it back in the future. I really hope that this concept can be developed as I know from conversations with other headteachers that there is a definite demand for it.”
- Headteacher, Mainstream Primary School, Poole
“I love the Zen Den, it is most definitely a much needed product in all mainstream classes as many children require additional support and access to sensory and physical breaks during the day."
- Special Educational Needs Coordinator, Mainstream Primary School, Bournemouth
“The Zen Den is a wonderful and very much needed resource in schools. The average number of children with SEND in mainstream schools has risen and continues to do so. This resource will enable children to regulate their emotions in a much quicker time frame, it will allow children to become more independent and learn to self-regulate as there is no need for a TA to escort to the main sensory room. In turn this will enable children to
remain in the classroom and part of the quality first teaching. The resource Zen Den appears practical and well designed with the constraints within a classroom setting.”
- Trust Special Educational Needs Coordinator, Mainstream Primary School
“This product is something I would be very interested in. It would support the emotional well-being of our pupils which in turn will support their academic progress.
We currently have a sensory room which is a vital resource, however, it can only be used by 1 child at a time and they need to be accompanied by an adult. Having a Zen Den in the classroom would mean many more children would have access and would ease the anxiety of many children as they would know that sensory support was there ready for them when they need it.
I would be very keen to discuss this further with you. I have discussed the Zen Den with our Trust Director of Primary Education and she too was very keen on the product.”
- Headteacher, Mainstream Primary School, Bournemouth
“As the Strategic Lead for inclusion in a large Multi Academy Trust serving 12,028 pupils of which 1800 have SEND needs and 306 have EHCPs, I can see great potential value in this product in a time where space and finance are a premium for schools. The design is efficient and space saving, meaning classroom space is not significantly impacted when it is not in use. When unfolded it is a streamlined shape
which does not impose. The internal space of the Den is very well considered. The floor material is neutral and sensory-supportive. I am impressed with the sensory panel and with the fact this can be covered if it provides overload. The lights are a super addition meaning that children are given a calming point of focus. I would be keen to talk to you more about the product’s possible use in our schools going
- Strategic Lead for Inclusion, Academic Trust, Dorset