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Sensory path, movement supports help students get focused, calm

Ace Hurley and Rachel Saylor don’t seem concerned why what they refer to as the “sticker path” came to be. What they do know is that it’s just fun to wave, clap, stomp and jump their way along it.

They’re getting their wiggles out while sharpening their focus as they concentrate on tasks — such as to clap, wave, hop and count — written on about 50 feet of virtual logs, rocks and lily pads.

The pair of Bushnell Elementary first-graders aren’t the only ones who benefit from the path outside Vanessa Hogarth’s office. It was installed this year thanks to a $370 grant from the Lowell Education Foundation.

First-grader Eugene Jenkins uses the mini-trampoline in Vanessa Hogarth’s office (courtesy photo)

Also included in the grant was the purchase of two inflatable ball chairs, a miniature trampoline, and headphones that stream calming music and guided meditation.

Hogarth, at-risk social worker at the school of nearly 300 students in preschool through first grade, said the movement and sensory supports are aimed at “improving the behavior of (the) most challenging students.” The calming interventions align with state-mandated Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS).

The new tools, Hogarth said, will be most helpful in defusing anger, coping with feelings of anxiety and releasing extra energy.

“I think our most challenging students are also our most misunderstood,” she said. “Each behavior exhibited serves a function of communication in a child’s world.” Sensory supports offer ”an array of tools to connect through movement,” increasing the chances for a successful intervention.

Vanessa Hogarth, at-risk social worker at Bushnell Elementary, with first-graders Rachel Saylor and Ace Hurley

With younger students in particular, Hogarth sees movement and play when they are in counseling as very important.

“Sometimes students will be so frustrated by something they will storm down here, get on the trampoline and start jumping. They say ‘I need to get my energy out,’ which is great that they recognize that.”

Hogarth also has seen positives beyond the students she works with one-on-one.

“What I have found is really cool is the mindfulness and relaxation that comes from using these,” she said. “Teachers sometimes will bring their whole class by (the path) on the way somewhere, and students have been great about using it without supervision. The entire building has benefitted, for sure.”


SNN article: Nixing negatives while promoting positives

SNN article: Positive behavior program proves its value

Lowell Education Foundation

The sensory path helps students get the wiggles out and improves focus

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering East Grand Rapids, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio or email Morgan.


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  1. I love this path. Our school purchased the same one! It’s called the ” Nature Hop Sensory path ” !
    Good work Bushnell !


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