Marzolf Primary sensory path helps students learn through play

Friday, September 6, 2019 | 12:01 AM


Marzolf Primary School students hop on lily pads, tightrope walk along twigs and spin atop vibrantly painted waves on their playground sidewalk.

The fun activity improves kindergarten through third-graders’ motor skills and increases classroom engagement.

Over the summer, art teacher Therasa Joseph designed the sensory path, an obstacle course requiring students to move through the designs, building sensory pathways, or brain connections, along the way.

“A sensory path is a great way for kids to develop motor skills like balance, hand-eye coordination and spatial awareness,” she said.

“We also use the path as a brain break. It allows students to break from the school day to release extra energy and still exercise their brain.”

The schoolwide positive behaviors and interventions and supports committee devised the pathway idea.

“We have several students that need a sensory break during the day, and the path outside gives them a change of scenery along with giving them an engaging activity for their body and brain,” Joseph said. “This will give some students a nice break to get some extra energy out. It also will provide our students with an extra activity during recess.”

“We have an amazing staff that came in during the summer to meet and discuss these ideas along with many others, thus making it possible to complete before school started. Our principal’s support for our ideas also made this possible,” Joseph said.

She researched many pathway designs prior to creating her own, utilizing a nature theme since the path is outdoors.

“She incorporated gross motor skills into the path, which is designed for students to hop, leap, sidestep, spin and jump to different elements on the path. The path also has students applying foundational academic skills by moving along the letters of the alphabet and from numbers one through 10,” a news release states.

Joseph has experienced an overwhelmingly positive response to the pathway.

“As I was working on the pathway, I had neighborhood kids come over and tell me how awesome they thought the path was. A teacher brought her daughter who is a former Marzolf student; her daughter told her that our students were going to love it. … Another art teacher in the district asked about the process (of establishing the pathway) because her school would like one, too.”

Joseph also witnessed students who had already used the pathway assisting first-timers navigate it.

“Shaler Area staff is committed to finding ways to empower our students with the tools they need to be successful in school. We are extremely proud of the Marzolf Primary staff for finding creative ways to meet the needs of our youngest learners and know that the new sensory path will be a resource that will benefit all Marzolf students,” said Bryan O’Black, district assistant superintendent.