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Sensory walk at Hubbard school gives students ‘brain break’

This year, the elementary school building has an indoor / outdoor sensory walk for students in grades K-4 to use.

“The sensory walk is an area in the school where kids with sensory issues can go to relieve that issue that they have or whatever sensation that they have. A lot of our kids that have autism have sensory needs. So, they wear weighted vests, they have weighted blankets, some of them walk with a backpack with books in it, just to kind of help that. And this is another area where they can go to help with that sensory issue,” said elementary Principal Shawn Marcello.

The sensory walk is for all students who need it, whether they are having a serious issue or are just in need of a brain break.

“When a student is having, say, like a meltdown or an anxiety issue or just needs an outlet, getting them to go through the sensory walk and do the activities will kind of take their mind off of what the issue was,” said Marcello.

The sensory walk is Eagle themed — because the students are the Hubbard Eagles — and allows students to pretend to soar over a river like an eagle, count feathers and hop their way in the eagle’s nest.

“The idea is, once you’re in the nest, then you can talk about maybe what caused you to get frustrated or why you lashed out the way you did, or why you shut down and refuse to do some of your work and things like that. So they do the activities, and it helps de-escalate them. And then as they get to the nest, that helps them to kind of reflect on what actually caused the issue,” Marcello added.

The principal got this idea when he saw a school online that had one in a hallway. He thought at Hubbard, they could expand upon the idea to include the underused courtyard.

Over the summer, Marcello solicited the help of Hubbard art teachers Megan Marino and Josh MacMillian to design the sensory walk that encompasses two hallways and the elementary school’s courtyard. He also reached out to Eric Johnson at Pier Graphics to have decals and banners printed for the space. Community member Rick Resatar also volunteered his time to seal the entire project.

Each teacher is able to take his or her classroom through the sensory walk either for classroom management or rewards.

“The kids love it,” said second-grade teacher Kris Frank. “They want to go out and it’s a great behavior incentive or brain break. It works nicely as a transition between activities.”

Even though the school year just started, Marcello said he’s already seen an improvement in the students.

“I’ll take them straight to the sensory walk, and we’ll start doing it and before they even realize it, they’re no longer upset. They’re having fun walking on the tightrope or doing the hopscotch or doing the frog jumps. Then once I get them to the eagle’s nest, their minds clear and then we can actually address the issue at hand,” said Marcello.

bshiller@tribtoday.com