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Thoreau Park sensory path helps students stay focused at school

Thoreau Park sensory walk


May 20, 2019



Thoreau Park Elementary School recently added another option to help students who need a few minutes to refocus during the school day through the installation of a sensory path.


“Basically a sensory path is colored patterns on the floor and wall that allow kids to move in a structured way, like jumping from spot to spot or placing their hands on the wall to do some pushing,” explained Ruth Gordon, occupational therapist at Thoreau Park. “The concept is to give our students at our school another way to get that movement they are seeking during the day, but do it in a proactive way to help reduce behaviors that are distracting in the classroom.”


She added that this was Thoreau Park School Psychologist Adria Fisher’s idea and the school purchased the path this year for students to use.


The colorful sensory path, which was installed in April, features shapes of all sizes themed around outer space, planets and rocket ships. There are letters and numbers incorporated into the path, as well.


It only takes a few minutes to complete the path, which includes walking on tiptoes, bending down, jumping, hopping and reaching high and low. There is a clear start and end to the path with arrows and guides to help students complete all the activities.


Gordon said these deep pressure movements help students feel grounded and provide a calming effect, especially in an organized and structured way.


“There is a lot of research behind movement breaks,” she expressed. “They help students focus, improve behavior, provide the ability to stay on task, increase productivity and reduce stress.”


“A lot of our teachers were already doing brain breaks and things like that for kids in the classroom,” Gordon added. “There is a lot of research on that too, where it’s not just downtime for the brain, but that’s when the brain synthesizes information and helps kids memorize the information that they are learning.”


Staff and administration agreed this was something the building needed to help all students, not just those in special education classrooms or those with specialized needs.


“We have such a range of student movement and attention needs,” Gordon shared. “We have a lot of students who can maintain in a classroom throughout the day but might need a break to students who have breaks one to three times throughout their school day that are proactively set into their schedule. These are students who have Sensory Processing Disorder, ADHD and Autism, who just need that extra movement.”


Since the sensory path has been installed, students and teachers have been using it regularly.


“The students are very excited about it,” shared Ted Bickley, principal at Thoreau Park. “We were limited in terms of space, but I wanted it in a place where the most students and staff could use it. So far, everyone who has tried it likes it.”



PHOTO CAPTION:  A Thoreau Park Elementary student walks on the sensory path, which provides students with a way to move and stay focused during the school day.