There are insects in one of the main corridors at Conrad Elvehjem Primary School; a lengthy caterpillar is motionless along one side of the hallway. And there are bear prints, logs, lily pads and an assortment of other animals pasted on the floor.
“It’s like moving into a new house. You live in it for a year and then you make it your own,” said kindergarten teacher Dodi Kuehl. “We’ve been in the school a year, and now it’s time for us to make it our own.”
This summer, Kuehl and a team of CEPS staff members are installing a sensory pathway in one of the school’s main hallways that goes past the gym. The path is made up of various shapes for the district’s youngest students to follow when walking the hallway. For example, children can hop on numbered bear paws, slide their feet on logs, spin on circles and practice breathing exercises on the caterpillar cutout.
“What we noticed is that when kids were transitioning from one class to another, they were using the colored tiles (in the hallway) almost as a sensory path,” Kuehl said. “These little bodies sit for so long, they get so much instruction all day, they really need an outlet to relieve some of that energy, and we call that sensory regulation.”
The kindergarten teacher said the pathway is based on an occupational and physical therapy scope and what type of motor movements help children regulate the most.
Not only will the students be able to use the pathway when going between rooms, the area can also be used for children who may need a sensory break during class.
A total of 620 pieces were created for the school’s sensory pathway.
Kuehl said sensory pathways are a trend in education and companies charge thousands of dollars to install them in schools. CEPS is able to put one in at the fraction of a cost; the kindergarten teacher applied for and received one of the local Gannon education grants. The funds were used to purchase a cricut machine, which can be used to cut a variety of materials including vinyl into specific shapes, and the materials.
“This was such a marriage of the grant coming into fruition and input from all the staff, administration and also our buildings and grounds people because they have to prep the floor,” Kuehl said, adding the custodial staff will also seal over the cut outs with wax to ensure the shapes won’t peel off the floor.
If this sensory pathway works out, the kindergarten teacher would like to put another one in the other hallway that goes past the gym.
Not only is the school getting the sensory pathway during the summer, the walls will be adorned with the CEPS mission statement and empowerment statements by the time school begins in September.