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Walk this way

New sensory pathway is helping West Godwin students ‘get the wiggles out’

Godwin Heights — With all the bright colors and fun designs, sometimes it’s just too hard to resist hopping and twirling along West Godwin’s new sensory pathway.

Such was the case of one student who was hopping and twirling along the pathway before she spotted Assistant Principal Casey Kroll walking by. Kroll chuckled.

“It certainly helps to get the wiggles out,” she said as the student continued on with a smile. 

The sensory pathway is a new addition to the West Godwin hallways this fall, thanks to Early Childhood Special Education Paraprofessional Carrie DeMull, who had seen the idea on Facebook.

“I was just scrolling through when I came upon a video by Chantel’s Paths, who makes them,” DeMull said. “I thought, what a great way for students to not only get those wiggles out, but if they are upset, it would be a way to get their mind off of the problem and be able to refocus.”

Sensory paths are used to help develop fine and gross motor skills like balance, hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness. They also can provide a break from classroom activities or a place where students can get out some extra energy.

Jump! Spin! Hop!

At West Godwin, the pathway encourages students to do things like hop, skip, jump, trace, squat and breathe. Students start by “typing” their names on the wall and from there follow the path’s instructions, like hopping on the letters of the alphabet or doing wall push-ups and squats. 

“My classroom loves the sensory walk,” said first grade teacher Cassie Atkinson. “We don’t use it every time we pass through it, which offers an excellent way to practice self control.”

The pathway is located in a high-traffic area, in the hallway near the lunch room and doors leading to the school’s playground. 

“Every day after lunch, I always give my students the go-ahead, giving them the opportunity to get their wiggles out and move their bodies after eating, before getting back into the classroom,” Atkinson said.

The pathway also offers an opportunity to celebrate victories big and small, such as when a student is able to accomplish something they have not been able to do, said kindergarten teacher Holly Vostad. She recently celebrated with her student, Brantley Cox-Homrich, when he was able to hop without holding the wall.

“My favorite parts are jumping and spinning,” Brantley said of the sensory path. Vostad added that he also likes practicing his letters while moving around the space. 

We’ll Fund That

To pay for this resource, which costs about $1,500 for decals and instructions, DeMull and West Godwin’s occupational therapist, Katie Burke, applied for a grant from the Wyoming Community Foundation.

“I remember when we got the application, we really wanted to support it,” Wyoming Community Foundation Chair Greg King said. “It was an educational opportunity, but more importantly, it was something that was for all children.”

King said the committee also liked the idea of the project’s longevity; once installed, it would be available for generations of children to use. 

“It was a great fit, given the funding and our focus,” he said.

Although they received the funding in 2020, DeMull had to wait to install the sensory pathway because of the pandemic and ongoing renovation work. But two weeks before the start of this school year, she and a couple of family members did the painstaking work of using plastic credit cards to help adhere the decals to the floor. 

Burke, who helped with the grant, said students need movement throughout the day to stay focused and engaged.

“It is so helpful in that it has a clear beginning and ending and gives kids a pattern and orientation of movements, which not only builds confidence but also gives them the sensory input they need to return to the classroom feeling regulated within their body,” she said.

Explore more unique video stories of students learning, interesting school programs and educators working to help all children succeed.

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma covers Kent ISD and Godwin Heights. She was born in the Detroit area but grew up in Brighton where she attended Hartland Public Schools. The salutatorian for the Class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism and minored in photography and German. She expanded her color palette to include orange and black as both her daughters graduated from Byron Center Public Schools; maroon and white for Aquinas College where her daughter studies nursing and also brought back blue and maize for Grand Rapids Community College where her youngest daughter currently is studying music. Read Joanne's full bio

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