Cushman students hop and play with new sensory path

Jan 10, 2020

Students at Cushman School have one more reason to jump for joy after the winter break, as the school has installed a new sensory path for them to hop, leap, and play.

Sensory paths are visual aids that provide colorful guided movement activities for children. 

They not only allow kids to take a break and get moving, but also help build sensory connections in the brain, so that students are better able to focus when they return to the classroom.

And although the paths are often used for kids with individualized education plans (IEPs), Cushman Principal Melissa McHenry said that all of her students — Cushman educates both preschoolers and kindergarteners — can benefit from it as well.  

“If a teacher knows that the writing lesson they’re doing today is going to require the kids to be focused and sitting maybe for a little longer than normal, she may bring her whole class down here and work the path,” she said. “Because that will help them with attention and focus.”

Teachers could also assign a small group of students to use the path, or even individuals who seem like they need a “brain break” or a movement break to “get those wiggles out,” according to McHenry.

“It could be a student who is very active in the classroom, but it could also be a student who doesn’t seem to have a lot of energy,” she explained. 

The path — made up of colorful stickers with animals, numbers, and letters on the floor and the wall — contains several different activities, including walking along a tree, making a figure eight around a snake, alphabet hopscotch, bear paw push-ups, and others.

“The movements, they’re very strategic,” McHenry noted. “It all helps the sensory system, it makes connections to the brain regarding the five senses...And that helps them get their body ready to learn.”

The new resource was put in place over the holiday and was funded with a grant from the Dartmouth Education Foundation.

It is located in a basement hallway near the school’s current sensory room, which is equipped with a ball pit, a trampoline, swings and tunnels for kids with IEPs as well as for indoor recess days.

Although the path is brand new, the school’s speech and occupational therapists have been using it since school started back on January 6.

“Children need to move all the time,” said occupational therapist Kathleen DeCampos. “It’s colorful. It grabs your attention. And the kids are motivated to want to move.”

She continued, “What’s really nice about that is it’s structured...They’re learning how to control, self-regulate their bodies.”

“They love it,” she added with a smile. “It’s very motivating. They all want to do it!”

Kindergarteners Emily Cabral and Andrew Ferreira, both six, demonstrated how to use the path, jumping, twisting, hopping, and leaning in to do push-ups against the wall.

Cabral said that her favorite part was the tree, because it has numbers on it. “I like counting numbers,” she explained. 

Andrew Ferreira said that he liked the frogs the best. “You get to jump and turn,” he said.

Afterwards the children hopped all the way back to Mrs. Kamm’s class.

“[The kids are] just so excited to see it,” McHenry said. “They figure it out so easily, what to do. And it feels like play to them, which is great. But we know the benefits of what this play then allows back in the classroom. So that’s huge.”

“We’re hopeful it lasts forever,” she added with a laugh. “We will see.”