BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
North Sashabaw Elementary is looking to fund a new sensory pathway for its students, something the school’s social emotional coach Kristina Hoover said will help in many ways.
“Over the past 4-5 years, our school staff has done extensive research and learning around being trauma-informed and responding to the whole child,” Hoover said. “With our newfound knowledge, one of our main focal points has been learning about the way in which a child’s brain functions, especially in times of high stress.”
They developed many ways to help children regulate their bodies and minds in order to remain calm and focused.
“This pathway will have a significant impact on our students learning and ability to self-regulate,” she said. “Movement plays a major role in a student’s ability to retain information. When students are experiencing big feelings and emotions, movement in a synchronized manner to help calm their body and mind. When students are able to regulate their brains and bodies, they are better equipped to maintain focus during instructional times of the day.”
The cost of the new sensory path program will be about $1,500.
“We have been seeking out ways to fund this,” Hoover said. “We recently did a pop can drive to try and raise some money. Although we collected 500 cans, that $50 only put a small dent in our project.”
Last year, occupational therapist Colleen Klosterman set up a sensory pathway down one of the school hallways, accessible to all children at North Sashabaw.
“Over the course of the year, this pathway started to become worn and unfortunately, it didn’t stay intact the whole year. The money we raise for the sensory path will include decals that will be installed on the floors and walls down our Wildcat hallway,” she said.
The pathway includes high-intensity activities such as bear crawling, she said.
“Bear crawling is a great way for kids to develop bilateral coordination while offering the proper sensory input to help improve emotional regulation. This type of sensory play builds nerve connections within the developing brain’s neural pathways, which trigger a child’s ability to complete more complex academic tasks,” she said. “High-intensity activities like a sensory pathway gets the blood pumping, helping children to sit still and focus for longer periods of time in the classroom.”
This supports cognitive growth, motor skills, problem solving skills, and social interactions, she said.
“After a student completes the sensory pathway, the child will feel more calm and less anxious or frustrated,” she said.
Ideally, the project will be funded as soon as possible, but Hoover is hoping it will happen sooner than later.
“We recently applied for a grant, so we are hoping we earn that money to help fund our project,” she said. “It would be a fabulous holiday gift to all children at North Sashabaw if we could have it funded before we leave for winter break in December.”