Young students are brimming with energy, which can often impact their focus in the classroom.
Sensory paths let young students hop or tip-toe through floors, or lean into walls with their hands, but more than an outlet for kids to let go and hang loose, they serve a much broader purpose.
Many schools have found these colourful, interactive pathways – which are typically made with stickers and can be found in hallways or on walls – as platforms that allow students to release stress and cope with different emotions.
— Stephanie Summers (@Summers1st) August 15, 2019
Educators believe it serves as an outlet that lets students channel some of their excess energy to help them concentrate on their studies, in addition to making the school day fun and engaging.
Seeing the benefits of sensory paths, four schools in Alabaster, Alabama, in the US recently added sensory paths to their campus. One special needs teacher was quoted saying that if students don’t learn how to deal with their emotions, they will struggle to focus on their school work long into the future.
At Noyes Elementary School, third-grade teacher Katie Hank was reported saying that sensory paths are making a difference in the classroom, as students are “able to get right back to focusing”.
In speaking about sensory paths to The Spokesman-Review, Balboa Elementary School sixth-grader Myles Gibson said: “It helps me get rid of energy whenever I’m unfocused. It takes my mind off the world, and then when I get back, it’s easier.”
The school’s Principal, Brenda Lollis, said that some students find it challenging to focus “on anything”. Some students have stressors at home, from parental splits or divorce to worrying about getting food on their table.
“We also have a lot of foster kids and a lot of kids with trauma,” said Lollis.
The sensory paths give students a chance to spend a few minutes of their school day walking, jumping, bouncing and “pushing themselves through their distractions”. Experts say sensory paths can also help students develop motor skills, including balance, hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness.
Not-for-profit organisation Goodstart Early Learning said sensory paths are part of sensory play, which involves activities that stimulate our senses, such as touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing, in addition to movement and balance.
They add that sensory play can encourage children to explore and investigate, allowing them to refine their thresholds for sensory information, helping their brains create stronger connections to sensory information and learn which are useful and which can be filtered out.
“Through sensory play, the child can learn to block out the noise which is not important and focus on the play which is occurring with their peer,” they added.