The roughly 70 students at Roland Elementary School found themselves in National Headlines one week ago for having the first sensory path in Manitoba. The 120 ft sensory path painted on the school hallway for students to follow features a number of colours and movement challenges like hopscotch, crawling and balancing sections that promote physical activity.
Principal Brandy Chevalier, says the response since then has been overwhelming. "I've got people from Finland, from New Zealand, from Poland, all over the states contacting, and sometimes those countries are ones that are doing very well on their educational standing in the world. To think that a small school in Roland, Manitoba is offering something that people from all over the world are essentially jealous of is huge."
Although the internet and television fame was exciting for staff and students, Chevalier says the most important part has been seeing the benefits it brings to their school.
"Just having those opportunities to move and to choose seating . . . we have a variety of seating opportunities in our classroom. That chance to advocate for self and to help yourself meet your needs makes for a better learning environment."
She says if you ask the students, they feel well-supported and ready to refocus and learn after taking a round or two through the sensory path.
"We integrate robotics, we're working on coding here. We're doing all sorts of things, but this is a great way to give that break from screen time and to meet the needs of our kids... to do anything that will help our kids succeed more is highly beneficial, and we have been seeing those benefits." A few examples include the entire kindergarten class from last year being able to read by June, and the success they are seeing in their robotics and coding studies.
Chevalier says having a smaller school can be a huge benefit to the student's learning.
"There is an automatic sense of family when you attend our school. There's opportunities for cross-grade activities." This can allow more opportunity for kids to continue to be challenged if they find the work too easy, but can also help them to be leaders to fellow students that may not be at the same learning level.
The familial vibes also extend past the Roland community as volunteers from Carman Collegiate helped make the custom-tailored project a reality. For example, "the student from Carman Collegiate that took on a major role in developing the path [that] has connections to the Roland area . . . She had an innate need to give back to our community which was awesome."
She also says that she and other staff members have a background in physical education, so they are always looking for new ways to integrate that into the time they get to spend with students.
"I myself have a standing desk as well as my stool. I know I need to be able to stand and to move throughout my day to get my work done, and just being aware of what our bodies need is a huge piece of growing as an individual."
Click here for a video of the sensory path.