Pathway keeps kids moving

Deborah Prescott | Daily Press Students from Tara Moreno’s class take a break from sitting and follow the sensory pathway at the Webster Kindergarten Center. Jessi Nelson, a teacher at Webster, learned of sensory pathways from a friend and thought getting young students up during the day would be a good wayy to keeping them focused. Teachers at the school have noticed students sitting and focusing longer in the classroom since using the sensory pathway.

ESCANABA — Students at the Webster Kindergarten Center have a new path to follow — using balance and focus. Teaching staff at Webster installed a sensory pathway for students to use in a hallway close to the principal’s office.

Sensory playscapes are made up of stencils students follow to become more aware of their senses.

“Students use academic visuals on the floor and walls to move through a series of balance and gross motor activities,” said Webster Kindergarten Center Principal Krista Johnson. “The expectation is a decrease in sensory seeking behaviors and an increase in cognition and focus.”

A friend of Jessi Nelson, a teacher at Webster, sent her a video about sensory pathways. After Nelson saw the video, she brought the idea to the Webster staff knowing it could be of use at the school.

“I thought it would be such a great resource for our Kindergarten and Begindergarten students,” said Nelson. “Being able to get them up and moving during the school day is so important to help them keep their minds focused.”

Children at Webster can use the sensory playscape anytime during the school day. The pathway makes for a good “brain-break” when it is needed. Teachers at the school have noticed students sitting and focusing longer in the classroom.

Webster staff chose between two stencils sets, an original design and a space theme. Nelson and others thought the original design was a better fit for their school.

Children follow the path and instructions along the way. Along the loopy ladybug pathway students are instructed to duck walk low and hands on the floor, jump and tip toe and reach to the sky. The numbered daisy trail is 14 feet long and helps children release built up tension within the neuro pathways by the body movement of following the numbered petals. There are also frogs, lilly pads, logs and alpha dots to follow along the playscape. The pathway is designed to stimulate the mind while muscles of the arms and legs move and coordinate the mind and body.

To get the funding for the pathway, Johnson enlisted the help of local dietician and nutritionist Linda Klope. Klope is a representative

of the Fuel Up to Play 60 initiative launched by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture. The program encourages children to play at least 60 minutes a day.

“We sought out Linda Klope to write a grant on our behalf through Fuel Up to Play 60 and the National Dairy Council and we were awarded the funding last fall,” said Johnson. “She had written grants for our schools in the past through the same program.”

Every school has an opportunity to apply for a $4,000 grant from the Fuel Up to Play 60 program. The grant has to be used for nutrition and activity.

“I’m thankful to the Michigan Dairy Farmers and am so grateful they thought a grant was worthy to put in a sensory pathway,” said Klope.

Webster Kindergarten Center is the first school to install a sensory playscape. Klope said other schools are looking to Webster and will determine if installing a sensory playscape would work for their schools.

“Webster is the leader in the area,” Klope noted.

The stencils have four coats of wax over the top of the design to keep them attached to the floor.

“We have high hopes that it will withstand little feet,” said Johnson. “It was also placed in an area with less foot traffic, so we shouldn’t have to worry about the effects of wet snow boots or sand.”