September 19, 2021
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Helping elementary kids focus with a sensory path

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
March 6, 2020

This spring John Reed School in Rohnert Park will be installing a new playscape sensory path, a way to improve young students’ gross motor skills and a way for them to get their wiggles out outside before coming in to focus on class. The path is being made possible by a $4,400 grant from the Rohnert Park Foundation small grants program.

According to the company, Fit & Fun Playscapes, “a sensory path is a colorful, creative and playful way for kids to build sensory pathways, connections in the brain that are responsible for sight, touch, sound, etc., which enable kids to complete complex, multi-stage tasks.” 

“Along the school grounds there will be a painted path,” explains Shelby Canales, Kindergarten teacher at John Reed school who, together with Kindergarten teacher Tiffani Mugurussa, applied for the grant. “For part of it, for example, there could be handprints that say you need to crawl on the ground like a bear. On the next part it could look like a rope and say walk as if on a tightrope. It gives them gross motor activities that require critical thinking.”

The grant money will go to stencils to make the path and special paints used for black tops. Having the stencils allows the school to refresh the path, even after it has worn away over the years. The school plans to install the path this spring, once the weather has improved. 

Mugurussa and Canales had seen examples of sensory paths through social media at different schools throughout the United States and thought this was something ideal for their school.

“This is something we thought our students could use,” says Canales. “We have some students that need brain breaks throughout their day. It’s a way to help those kids get out their energy in a productive way and then come in and focus and be ready to learn. It’s also good as a calming technique. Little kids sometimes have difficulty regulating emotions so they can go do that instead, if they need a break or if they’re feeling overwhelmed or angry. It’s a great way for them to have a break as well and come back ready.”

The grant covers stencils for two different sensory paths, one for the Kindergarten through second grade playground, and one for the third through fifth grade playground which has more critical thinking tasks for that age group. 

“It will be beneficial for all but specifically for children that need more outside time to get out some excess energy,” says Canales. “We see right now a lot of difficulty in focusing with kids this age because they’re little and the academic demand is big. I think this is going to provide a greater opportunity for them to get out that energy in an appropriate way.” 

“When it asks them to do those types of things [on the sensory path], they’ll have to focus on doing those activities like taking five hops or clapping their hands ten times,” says Mugurussa. “They’re going to be focusing on those activities and forgetting about whatever it was that brought them to that playscape.”