A hallway once forbidden from student entry is now being put to use with activities involving students’ four senses (licking objects wouldn’t be fun unless you’re in Willy Wonka’s village).
The sensory hallway, which will be dedicated sometime in the fall to give it a formal name, was largely created by Harrison Township Elementary Principal AnnaLisa Rodano and district Supervisor of Instruction Chad Flexon.
“We started brainstorming ideas in the early spring and we had that vision knowing our roll-out will be September,” Rodano said. “Laying everything out took about 10 hours.”
Much of the equipment was purchased online and is safe for elementary-aged children to use. Legos were donated by families.
Stations in the hallway include hopping, jumping, tip-toeing, reciting the alphabet and yoga, among many others. The two said as the year progresses, they’ll be thinking of new activities to incorporate the four senses.
A white noise machine is also in the hallway to mimic the sound of ocean waves, rain, “ambience” and others.
“We wanted opportunities for kids to come out and have their movement breaks here with the bikes and yoga mats,” Rodano said. “Kids can start at either end of the hallway. It’s open for all kids.”
She added they researched sensory hallways in other schools to see what was done, how to incorporate it in HTES and the type of equipment they’ll need so it doesn’t suffer too much damage from daily foot traffic and activities.
Starting this year, school administrators worked in nine to 10 minutes of movement to every teacher’s schedule to give them a formal time to pause instruction and let kids expel their energy.
Flexon said the hallway, prior to their efforts, was seen as a “transitional hallway” where kids would only walk through it with an adult or their class as a shortcut. Typically, students never ventured out into it until now.
The duo hopes the hallway promotes innovative ways for teachers to teach different concepts to kids, and to give kids a chance to move and relax.
“These aren’t high-skilled tasks,” Flexon said. “Everyone can feel comfortable about following footprints, recognizing colors. It’s not catching a ball or throwing something, it’s things that are so simple.”
He said for kids who have concerns with a sensory overload, that their teachers and support staff will work with them to make the experience as enjoyable and stress-free as possible, and it won’t be a free-for-all.
“We ran some kids through it the first day, roughly 20 students, and it was fine,” he said. “They all knew to wait their turns before going, and some started in different spots.”
Most teachers now, he added, work with one another for schedules in other activity rooms of the building, so he doesn’t expect there to be a stampede of kids in the hallway.
Within her favorite station of the hallway, Rodano said teachers can use the alphabet to teach preschoolers and kindergarteners what it is, and to help first- through third-graders how to learn and remember new vocabulary.
“My favorite part is the Lego wall because mostly everything involves constant movement, and this will be an area to pause to build, ride the spin bike, do yoga or push-ups against the wall,” Flexon said.
The two hope to get smaller stations installed at the end of each hallway in the building so people don’t have to always venture out from one location to another.
“Some kids might need to move a little bit more than others, and I think that’s addressing those high learners and low learners, and kids with physical challenges will also have an experience here,” Rodano said.