Sensory paths at Oskaloosa Elementary School

OSKALOOSA— Staff members at Oskaloosa has been taking time out of their summer schedules to help install new sensory paths at the Oskaloosa Elementary School.

This project started because last summer Matt Moore was getting married and he said for wedding gifts they asked for a donation in honor of his son, Nicholas. Moore ended up handing the money from the donations to Mary Hersom, a teacher at OES, and asked her to determine a good use for it for kids.

Hersom said this was a big responsibility.

“I emailed and asked if anybody else was interested in forming a committee to determine what would be the best use of the money," she said, "and so we had a verity of people on the committee and we looked at different things and talked about a sensory path.”

She said Nicholas would have loved to run and jump and all of that, so they decided they were going to try sensory paths.

“We felt like it would impact all kids. It would benefit all kids," she said. "Every child has the opportunity to use it. It promotes children to feel better, motivate them, and helps with their learning.”

A sensory path is a great way for children to hop, jump, skip, and get some of those wiggles out.

They dedicated a particular spot going into the lunchroom for Nicholas. Nicholas's disease was known to have skin like butterfly wings because his skin was so delicate. At his funeral, they went out to his gravesite and released butterflies. For those reasons, the sensory path has monarch butterflies on it.

Hersom said there are sensory paths for children to calm down and get their blood going again, and it all just depends on what their needs are.

She said this project is a growing process.

“The custodians did not know we were working on this project or not being aware of all the places we wanted to do and had already waxed some areas like the lunchroom," she said. "We intended to have some in the lunchroom, so that will be next year. We'd also like to do some other hallways and even in classrooms as you walk in.”

Kids will be able to use these sensory paths on the teacher's discretion. Hersom said they could also use them when walking from class to class. It is really intended for kids to use them as they need.

“My class, we had a lot of inside recess because of the weather we had this year," she said, "so during recess time I would bring them down and we would run through a path, take ten minutes, come back and get refocused again.”

There are two different themes going on. On the kindergarten through the second-grade side, a Dr. Seuss theme was chosen.

“This is to represent that we want kids to think outside of Oskaloosa," she said. "Where can you go, dream big, where do you see yourself, helping them to see there's a world outside of Oskaloosa because too many kids don’t get to leave Oskaloosa.”

Some examples are the Fox and Socks, the Horton Hop, and One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish, which is a hopscotch design.

On the third through fifth-grade side the theme is nature.

“Again a fun different take on it," Hersom said. "No one way you have to do it. Some kids might jump on the raindrops and some might do the trail.”

This is not just an inside thing. There will be activities outside as well. There will be a three lane track, hopscotch, four square, snakes and ladders, and even a US map.

“Imagine a child who has heard about Florida, now they can see, 'I have to go to this many states to get to Florida,'" she said. "So it's going to be a good learning tool but also fun for them.”

On the third through fifth-grade side, there will be, tetherball, bocce ball, painting lines for football and also putting lines on the basketball courts so they will know how far a free throw is and etc.

“Were hoping the outside having more activities will cut done on behaviors and it will give kids something to do so they don't pick on each other," Hersom said, "and it also helps kids that maybe don't have someone, they can go do something and not feel left out.”

The funding for this was started up by Matt Moore and his family in honor of their son, Nicholas. Funds were also given from the PTO and additional funding has been received.

Hersom has had help working on the sensory paths from Liz Roe, Jane Bambrook, Kendra Roquet, Amanda Doud, Joi Stout, and Dawn Anderson. Carolyn Pederson has also been a big help in planning the outside areas.

Hersom said she is most proud of this project because "it helps all children."

"Sadly, there aren't very many people that are still here when Nicholas was here. The teachers have retired, the children have just graduated, he would have graduated this year, so I still like to keep the legacy of all children that we have lost and so this is a way to remember him,” she said. “Also, just letting the family know he hasn’t been forgotten. You can guarantee every time I walk into the lunchroom I'm going to smile seeing those butterflies.”