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  • Adria de Stefano

Embracing Neurodiversity: The Unveiling of Sherman Elementary School's Stairwell of Imagination

In the spirit of April's dedication to celebrating Autism Acceptance, Sherman Elementary School proudly unveiled its latest innovation: The Stairwell of Imagination! This remarkable space which has been meticulously crafted over the past 10 months by the collaborative efforts of the Sherman BACR team, the Sherman admin, a cadre of educational experts, and Roland DGA/Vivas Inc., marks a significant leap forward in embracing neurodiversity within educational environments.

Sherman Elementary has long been recognized for its unwavering commitment to nurturing the holistic development of its students. From fostering academic excellence to promoting social-emotional growth, the school has championed a mission of inclusivity and equitable access for its diverse student body. Now, this mission materializes in the form of an immersive and imaginative space—the Stairwell of Imagination.

Starting back in Sherman’s 2023 BACR Summer Learning Program, the ideas began to take shape. Summer camp students created artwork that would then inspire the imagery that has transformed the most highly trafficked space in the building! By drawing inspiration from student artwork, the design process unfolded, and we developed the outline for an interactive stairwell. What began as simple sketches transformed into a multisensory experience, inviting students to engage with tactile elements and interactive features strategically placed throughout the stairwell.

Sherman Elementary, San Francisco, Stairwell of Imagination
Sherman Elementary, Stairwell of Imagination

Keeping in mind all the different types of learners, neurodiversity & inclusion were at the forefront of the designs. From designated zones for social-emotional learning, varieties of textures to touch, to playful memorization games seamlessly integrated into the design, every facet of the Stairwell of Imagination reflects a commitment to inclusive education. As students, faculty, and visitors ascend the stairs, they are greeted by a world of wonder—a sprawling ocean teeming with marine life, textured surfaces inviting exploration, and multilingual greetings echoing the school's diverse community.

The space serves as a canvas for the school's identity, integrating its motto and mascot—the Sherman Shark—into the design. Walking up and down the stairwell daily, students are reminded of their shared sense of belonging and purpose, fostering a spirit of community and pride. Recognizing that every mind is unique,  the space embraces a holistic approach to learning—one that celebrates differences and cultivates a sense of belonging for all.

As our school unveils this space during Autism Acceptance Month, it sends a message: inclusion is not merely an aspiration but a tangible reality that enriches the lives of all who encounter it. The Stairwell of Imagination would not have been possible without the tireless dedication of individuals like Luis Vivas and his team at Vivas Inc. With Roldand DGA, their expertise, coupled with cutting-edge technology such as advanced UV flatbed printers and DIMENSE textural printers, brought our vision to life.

Sherman Elementary & its BACR team extend a HUGE thank you to Roland DGA and Vivas Inc. for their commitment to this project, and for completing this huge installation at no cost to the school community or BACR. Their generosity ensures that this space serves as a beacon of representation and inspiration for years to come, and will impact the lives of so many of our students who see representation and inspiration in the beautiful imagery. 


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