The Escambia Westgate Snoezelen Complex in Pensacola, Florida

Dreams do come true!

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Our dream started in 1997 when we were told to DREAM—and dream big—which is how the idea was born to construct a building from the ground up that was designed for our most delicate and involved students. A SNOEZELEN building so special that all of our students would be able to participate in the SNOEZELEN/sensory environment and, just for a little while, be free from the bounds of their disabilities.

We wanted to find the right environment to challenge, motivate, stimulate, and also calm our students. We know we have found that magical environment with the creation of this one-of-a-kind building. We are blessed with dedicated teachers, therapists, and ESPs that graciously allowed us to give the many, many tours needed to explain to different groups and individuals why we needed this very special complex.

We thank FlagHouse for their support in helping Escambia Westgate School achieve the dream of a SNOEZELEN complex, and Ms. Barbara McCormack, the designer of the rooms and environments. And a special thanks to the students of Westgate who are the inspiration and the drive behind the DREAM!

Susan Berry, Principal
Escambia Westgate School
Pensacola , FL

An extraordinary 14,600-square foot SNOEZELEN MSE center becomes reality! The Lacy A. Collier SNOEZELEN Complex was dedicated on November 29, 2005 and includes a large atrium, sensory hallway, four 1100-square foot themed rooms, and utility spaces.

From the dazzling murals, to the overgrown swamp and foliage, the feel of the floor, the accessible treewalk and treehouses, the tactile volcano, the interactive tree, to the warm, humid air and the pungent, earthy smells—there's no doubt that this is the Jungle.

Leave the world behind for an exciting space adventure complete with spaceship, interactive flying saucer, incline elevator, fiber-optic moon, interactive floor, light rope, bubble tubes, interactive panels, and more.

A bubble-tube island with infinite reflections is the centerpiece of this room. It was designed to be themed in many formats, depending on the needs of students and the goals of teachers. That's the real magic of the Magic Room!

A wheelchair-accessible igloo, sound-activated ice wall and cave, glowing lake, penguin colony, and crystal cave are complemented by gentle music, twinkling lights, and soft blankets to create a calm, peaceful space—a place to relax and recuperate away from the stresses of coping with a challenging life. This is the land of Snow.

A long sensory corridor offers smaller versions of each room's theme and is filled with a wealth of sensory experiences, including a Soundbeam, which allows the students to generate real music with simple movements and switches.

The Escambia Westgate School

In 2003, Susan Berry approached FlagHouse to design a world-class, stand-alone SNOEZELEN center that would expand and enrich the sensory world of children with disabilities. Escambia Westgate has 240 pupils, ranging in age from 4-21, with a broad spectrum of abilities from mild intellectual and physical impairments to severe multiple disabilities.

The dream

Inspiration for the center had come years earlier at the 1999 SNOEZELEN World Congress presented by FlagHouse. It took the Escambia Westgate Foundation Board six years of determined effort to raise $2 million in funding. The result: a center that takes the concept of using sensory experience within a learning environment further than ever before with:

• tactile, visual, auditory, olfactory and other sensory experiences

• skill-building gross-motor and fine-motor activities

• learning opportunities for all levels of ability

• interactive and empowering opportunities

• small and large spaces for group or one-on-one activities

• opportunities for life enhancement outside the usual frame of reference.

Plus, a completely accessible floor plan that accommodates all participants with elevators, roomy corridors and doorways, and possibly the world's largest ceiling tack.

Every step of the way

FlagHouse worked closely with the school, architect, and construction project manager to ensure that all areas of the center offered interactive, empowering opportunities with a careful blend of SNOEZELEN products, other sensory equipment, and custom-made items. The room themes each have a distinctive color scheme, character, product set, temperature, aroma, floor covering, and sound.

This challenging opportunity showcases the ability of the SNOEZELEN MSE to provide a highly motivating sensory environment in an education setting to further the skills of a wider range of children and young adults with special needs. FlagHouse feels privileged to have been a part of this project and to help open up new possibilities for the children of Escambia Westgate School. We look forward to Phase II with plans for a new sensory aquatic facility, sensory gym with 1/2-mile track, and sensory garden.