First-graders Evie Boyer, left, and Calvin Closter try out the sensory path at Mt. Comfort Elementary School in Hancock County. Staff photo by Tom Russo
First-graders Evie Boyer, left, and Calvin Closter try out the sensory path at Mt. Comfort Elementary School in Hancock County. Staff photo by Tom Russo
MT. COMFORT — At first glance, it looks like hopscotch.

But students at Mt. Comfort Elementary School aren’t just springing among numbered boxes. They’re following big colorful arrows taking them in circles and heeding other stickers covering the hallway floor directing them to stomp, spin, wave, clap and touch their toes and shoulders.

To the students, the new “sensory paths” provide a couple minutes of fun. They go further than that, school officials say, by giving students a quick break during the school day to burn off steam and strengthen skills that aid in their learning.

The two sensory paths in the school’s first-grade hallway are made up of stickers of numbered lily pads and squares and lettered tree stumps along with arrows, logs, rocks, rockets, footprints and hand prints.

Alissa Lockwood, principal of Mt. Comfort Elementary School, said the paths offer a quick and efficient way for students to burn energy before heading back into their classroom, ready to learn.

“I think more and more we see kids who just need that quick break from class, like a reboot if you will,” Lockwood said. “…With this age of elementary kids, we find it harder and harder for them to sit still for longer periods of time.”

Lockwood said the paths also align with the schools’ goal to meet not only children’s academic needs, but social and emotional ones as well.

“I think this provides an outlet for some of those students who just need a calming space, something they can do individually by themselves,” she said.

Before starting as Mt. Vernon High School principal this year, former Mt. Comfort Elementary School principal Casey Dodd and fellow faculty sought a Mt. Vernon Education Foundation grant to fund the sensory path.

Renee Oldham, executive director of the education foundation, said the foundation funded the paths’ cost with a little more than $500.

She said she had been hearing about the benefits of sensory paths in the news and on social media around that time.

“It’s kind of a reset,” Oldham said. “It’s kind of like rebooting your computer, whenever you’re taking in so much information that you need some outputs.”

Oldham also described the paths as having a holistic learning quality by allowing children to use motor skills and problem solving to contribute to their cognitive growth.

“It becomes a different kind of tool, a resource for learning for the students as well,” she said.

Oldham said the education foundation hopes to offer sensory paths to the district’s other two elementary schools as well.
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