Hackett students getting a jump on maneuvering through school

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Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News Second grader LaTrell Reynolds hops on the Sensory Path at Hackett Elementary School. The new path, composed of decals on the floor, lets students get out their energy by doing hops, wall-pushups and more. Shown, from left, are occupational therapist Sonja Bagley and occupational therapy assistant Kayla Buttke.

BELOIT - Some Hackett Elementary School students are hopping to class with renewed spirits.

Thanks to the Sensory Path composed of colorful decals on the hallway floor, students are doing moves such as jumps, wall-pushups, skips and crouches and the "duck walk."

Hackett is the first in the School District of Beloit to offer a sensory path. Occupational therapist Sonja Bagley pitched the idea for the path after reading about it.

"A lot of kids need movement and movement breaks so they are more regulated and can learn," she said. "We thought it would be great for students to use it for five minutes and then go back to class and be ready for learning."

The Sensory Path was created by Holly Barker Clay, a special education teacher in Oxford, Mississippi. The path was designed to stimulate the proprioceptive system related to coordination and body awareness and the vestibular system related to balance.

It can be helpful for children with ADHD or kids with trauma, kids who are angry or even those who are overly tired. It can help improve coordination problems and irritability.

The path, put down in August, was ready for students this fall. Bagley and Occupational Therapy Assistant Kayla Buttke have been training students on how to use it. Although Bagley and Buttke do occupational therapy with students who qualify, they said the path can serve all children.

"This is for everybody, and all kids need movement. It's a way for everybody to participate," Bagley said.

So far the path is a big hit.

Buttke said one teacher brought her class for a trip down the path during an indoor recess when they needed to get some energy out.

When one child had a classroom outburst he came down telling Buttke he was angry or in the "red zone" of regulation. After his jumps he said he was in the "green zone" and felt much better.

"How can you be in a bad mood when you are jumping? It helps students refocus, recenter and helps them move on from what they feel upset about in the moment," Buttke said.

To help measure its effectiveness, Bagley has made slips for students to fill out how they feel before and after their path journey.

Principal Ryan McReynolds said his staff thought it would be a great benefit to the school. After researching it, he said he learned other districts were helped by it.

He said his staff has done a great job teaching the students how to use It. He said classes come down and learn how to walk through the path with expected behaviors.

He said it not only is great for those who use it, but is a nice addition for everyone.

"You can't even look at it without smiling," McReynolds said.

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