MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — Kids at one Marshalltown elementary are hopping, spinning and giggling their way down the hallways this school year, and teachers are actually encouraging it saying it helps them focus in the classroom.
It’s called a sensory pathway and Franklin Elementary just installed one last week. They say they are already seeing the benefits. It’s a place where kids can be active, take a brain break and actually self regulate.
“Right over there is where you have to walk the zig-zag and feel the little circles, and it kind of makes me feel satisfied,” Franklin Elementary fourth-grader Nyamal Wechtour said.
For many of the Marshalltown students, the sensory pathway just seems like fun, but for teachers and staff, the decked-out hallway is one of their most utilized tools.
“How do you think this hallway will help you be a better student?” Channel 13’s Whitney Blakemore asked.
“To get my wiggles out, and learn, and be a better second-grader,” Alison Barajas Rodriquez, Franklin Elementary second-grader said.
Every movement is intentional. Paraeducator Gina Eberline came up with the idea and worked with the district’s occupational therapist to make sure the activities in her sensory pathway set kids up best for success.
“Last year during the school year I saw it on social media and I told [principal Tim Holmgren] that is something that we needed,” Eberline said. “Then this year he asked me if I could do it.”
Now every student in the school is getting to try out the new sensory break.
“I absolutely love the smiles on their faces when they are doing it,” Franklin Elementary Counselor Dani Minkel said. “Then at the end when they are breathing really heavy, I know that this was a great way for them to get a little bit more energy or get a little bit of energy out.”
Minkel said teachers are trained to know when students may need that brain break and are already utilizing the hallway daily.
“I’ve also had kids come to me and say, ‘I’m not feeling the best right now. Can you take me down so we can use the sensory path?’ So it’s been great because adults have recognized in kids when it might help them, but kids are also starting to recognize it in themselves when it would be appropriate for them to use it. This way they can independently regulate their emotions,” Minkel said.
Even staff members are encouraged to use the hallway as a way to take a break, or control their emotions, according to Minkel.