New sensory walkway at Bernardston Elementary School to encourage motor skill development

  • A student navigates the cross-over step pattern at the sensory walkway that was installed in a hallway of the Bernardston Elementary School. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • A student navigates the hopscotch section of the sensory walkway that was installed in a hallway of the Bernardston Elementary School. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Students navigate the hopscotch and leap-frog sections of the sensory walkway that was installed in a hallway of the Bernardston Elementary School. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Bernardston Elementary School Principal Kelly Carriere. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/25/2019 6:12:44 PM
Modified: 10/25/2019 6:12:34 PM

BERNARDSTON — Students are already jumping, tip-toeing and leap-frogging across the new sensory walkway, installed at Bernardston Elementary School over Columbus Day weekend.

Sensory walkways are colorful, creative ways for children to strengthen their sensory pathways — connections in the brain that are responsible for sight, touch, sound and other senses that enable children to complete complex, multi-stage tasks. The walkways help children to develop their motor skills like balance, hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness.

“The thought is, students recognize when their body needs some movement and here are some ways to be able to move,” said Bernardston Principal Kelly Carriere.

The walkways are often constructed using stickers or decals applied to floors and walls.

“We installed it over Columbus Day weekend because, in order for stickers not to get ripped off from students jumping on them, we had to wax over the floor,” Carriere explained.

According to Student Services Director Chris Maguire, the sensory walkway and activity stickers were purchased from Fit and Fun Playscapes through a grant for early childhood social and emotional learning. The total cost for two walkways, one at Bernardston Elementary School, and a second at Northfield Elementary School — to be installed in the near future — will total just under $2,000.

Bernardston Elementary custodian Anthony Streeter, physical therapist Kristie Sulda and occupational therapist Rosa Kessler spent the long weekend installing the walkway, which will require minimal maintenance going forward, aside from occasionally buffing the floors.

Children can participate in exercises designed to develop their motor skills. The students balance as they perform a midline cross down the hall — walking while crisscrossing one leg in front of the other — or stretch their hands up the wall toward the ceiling as high as they can.

“The kids are pretty into it,” Kessler said. “It’s a nice break in the day, to encourage opportunities for movement.”

The walkway is built around both large and small physical movements, Carriere said. One teacher noted that students’ movements were already improving their coordination after just a couple days of use. Other activities, such as leap frog, hopscotch or trampoline jump, allow for high-energy movement.

In addition to helping students become more aware of their own senses, this high-energy sensory play allows for a mental rest. After getting their blood pumping and satisfying their urge to move, children are often better able to sit still and focus for longer periods of time in the classroom.

The concept around sensory hallways is using what you already have, and building in movement and guided movement activity, Carriere said. After just a couple of days, it is clear the sensory walkway will see a fair amount of use and teachers will even begin to incorporate time for movement activities into their day or academic programs.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.




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