Elementary students are full of energy and it is important for them to have an outlet for that energy throughout the day. For many students, recess and physical education classes serve this need, but there are times when additional breaks are needed. Teachers at Mitchell Elementary recently installed a sensory path down one of their main hallways, which is in many ways an indoor “obstacle course.”
“The initiative started around conversations with staff about alternative ways to provide “brain breaks” to reduce our building-wide behavior referrals,” said special education teacher Angela Pardun. “During these conversations, we discussed multiple options including a puzzle break table, the sensory path, the addition of a trampoline, and others.”
The course focuses on the student’s needs for proprioceptive and vestibular input. Proprioceptive is the ability to recognize body position in space and vestibular is the balance center. It helps students to regain focus, allowing them to retain more information presented by classroom teachers. The obstacle course movements were chosen to reduce different sensory needs and not to over stimulate the student.
The goal of installing the sensory path was to establish a safe and independent option for students to “reboot.” It also served as a great outlet during the winter months. Many students are now able to monitor and self regulate their own needs when feeling overwhelmed in their environment. Pardun said, “Students have shown great excitement and progress using the sensory path. It has worked well for all students including those with tier 1 to tier 3 needs. It is rare when walking down Mitchell’s main hall that you don’t see the path being utilized.”
This year, staff installed a temporary path with the goal to establish funding for installing a more permanent solution in the future. The upgraded decals would include additional academic pieces that would work alongside the current sensory movement components.