Topics: Immersive Learning, College of Architecture and Planning, Community Engagement, Students, Inclusive Excellence

December 16, 2019

A Ball State student builds inclusive play furniture for children.
During class students are building furniture and sensory objects for children at the Children's TherAplay Foundation.

Ball State University students are creating interactive play furniture at the Children’s TherAplay Foundation in Carmel to help children with disabilities improve coordination, problem-solving, and other skills. 

Children’s TherAplay provides physical and occupational therapies on horseback for children with diagnoses such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, traumatic brain injury, and developmental delays.

The immersive learning course, led by Dr. Shireen Kanakri, associate professor of interior design, was a continuation from the previous semester, when students helped to propose a new design for the entire building at Children’s TherAplay. In this phase of the project, students are designing furniture pieces, including a sensory wall, a cruising wall, a ramp bridge, and more.

“We are specifically designing the pieces that will be used to help treat the children,” Kanakri said. “Everything will be tested here, in our labs, before they are implemented at the facility in Carmel.”

Senior and resident of Perrysburg, Ohio, Megan Draper said Ball State is  providing her with an innovative, collaborative learning experience.

“I was collaborating on the construction of a living green wall, a self-contained garden housing many different types of plants and a built-in irrigation system, that will be placed in either the sensory room or gym area,” Draper said. “This installation will have a positive, biophilic impact on the children through the presence and interaction of nature within the learning environment.”

Senior and Monroeville resident Madison Castleman said she learned about the importance of accessibility.

“I designed a sensory wall piece that can also be folded down to a table,” Castleman said. “The sensory wall will have activities such as a sensory gel pad, a mini plinko game, and light up shapes. When the wall piece is folded down, it reveals a table with more sensory activities such as a kinetic sand pit, shoe laces to help with hand motor skills and learning to tie, and a magnetic ball maze.”

A majority of the students involved are studying interior design through the University’s R. Wayne Estopinal College of Architecture and Planning. Senior Emily Schripsema of Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, said what she learned in the project will help her after she graduates in May. She is considering a career in pediatric health care design or historic preservation, specializing in theater restoration and rehabilitation.

“This is a great project to help us work through the design process,” Schripsema said. “We are going through the entire process — client meeting, research, concept, development, intermediate model, more development, construction documents, final model, client review, final fixes, safety review, and installation.”

Senior Natalie Hopf of Jasper said Ball State provided her with an experience she couldn’t get elsewhere.

“Ball State’s interior design program is very special because it has a University Design Center on campus, which is rare,” Hopf said. “I’ve been exposed to the world of working with a real client, as opposed to working solely in the classroom, which helped me to see that I chose the right career path early on.”