Newton Elementary School teacher Gina Niemerg was truly surprised Monday morning when Brendan Shurman brought a gift for her students.

It was a sensory board with all types of items attached to a tall triangular-shaped wooden box. Some of the Items on the board were light switches, a television remote control, calculator, fuzzy trinkets, carpet samples and cloth samples, Legos, mirrors, zippers, buttons, a computer mouse and miniature toy characters from movies.

“This is going to be so good for our kiddos,” Niemerg said as she looked over the board. Her students get engaged in learning by touch or manipulating devices so the sensory board will enhance learning in her class. Touch is an important sense for growth in cognitive and motor skills as well as problem solving.

“Touching can help reprogram their brains for learning. This is pretty awesome,” said Niemerg, who has taught at Newton Elementary for four years and worked as a paraprofessional for two years at the school before joining the teaching staff.

Shurman’s surprise caught her off-guard that morning. She recalled talking about her students’ need for a sensory board about two years ago. Shurman decided to make the board as his Eagle Scout project. He is part of Boy Scout Troop 156 and currently has the rank of Life Scout.

“I used items from a picture I saw of a sensory board. It took me about four days to put this together,” said the 16-year-old sophomore at Newton Community High School. He has been involved in Scouting since he was in Kindergarten at Newton.

Helping Shurman deliver the board were his parents, Rick and Crystal Cook, and Jasper County Unit One Superintendent Andy Johnson, who has offered support these types of projects for local schools. They were able to keep the surprise delivery secret with the help of Newton Elementary Principal Jessica Guzman and other school employees. No one at the school let the cat out of the bag.

“This is really amazing,” Johnson said while looking at all the items offered on the board.

Shurman said he was glad to have constructed the board because it will mean so much to Niemerg’s students. In many ways, his Eagle Scout project will help some young minds soar at Newton Elementary.