The outdoor Sensory Path at Tanglewood Middle School was an amazing project for us to be a part of.
What is a sensory path?
A sensory path is an invaluable tool for any school community. It is an interactive pathway, utilizing movement and varied sensory input (such as different shapes and colors), to engage and refocus a child. When over-stimulation and stress lead to a decrease in cognitive functioning, sensory paths are shown to help provide the sensory input that then allows the child to return to the classroom and re-center on cognitive learning. They also help build motor skills and spatial awareness, helping build the sensory pathways of the brain. More here.
They are also a whole heck-of-a-lotta fun!
Weaving in and out of one another, the four paths that make up this one piece, can be used solo or in teams. You can imagine the fun that ensues when four students compete to reach the finish line! Even José and I couldn’t resist. Once the paint was thoroughly dried, we promptly raced each other! (I won).
The path was the brainchild of Maureen Phend, an amazing educator at the school, who is one of those teachers that just is above and beyond. She had the idea to take the school’s existing pavers and turn them into the path. A few weeks after our departure from Tanglewood, she sent us these photos.
She took groups of students out to use the path. Then later she had them unexpectedly draw the path from memory. The detail in their recollection is amazing.
You’ll see that the path also incorporates something different.
When José and I first got to Tanglewood, we were so impressed to witness a practice the entire middle school has taken on together. At the beginning and end of every school day, the whole school practices the Mindful Moment together. Over the announcements, teachers are asked to lower their classroom lights. Everyone becomes still. And the announcements lead everyone through a simple meditation.
- Relax. Let the worries from home and from life fade away.
- Focus. Focus on the here and now, on how you feel, on feeling great and excited for the day.
- Inhale. Feel the breath coming in and filling you with energy.
- Exhale. Feel your worries fall away with your breath.
- Smile. Smile and have a great day!
We were prepping the wall for the first Tanglewood mural when José and I first witnessed the Mindful Moment. We looked at each other and just said, “Wow! That is really something. Everyone could benefit from building this into the beginning and end of every day!”
It worked perfectly that the pavers had this long “tail” of individual pavers stretching away from the grid. There were just enough to fit relax, focus, inhale, exhale, and smile. So we incorporated them in. And it couldn’t have worked out better, because it serves as the perfect way to “enter” into the sensory pathway.
We are so grateful to Tanglewood Middle for having us. We know they feel we gave a lot to them. But truthfully, we feel they gave us more. To hear the kids get so excited about the murals, and to feel such ownership in them…that gave us a burst of affirmation and energy that we so needed right at the onset of this journey.