A pair of paths lined with activities took shape in the multi-purpose room of Superior Middle School Wednesday, Dec. 15.
Called Spartan Wellness Way, they include rainbow-colored long jumps, “tires” bearing Spartan heads in their centers, jumping jack stations, balance beams and a hopscotch activity brimming with affirmations.
Eighth-grader Tyler Olson and his brother Michael, 10, took turns cruising through the course, ending with a yoga pose and 10 deep breaths.
Would he enjoy running through the activities during school, Tyler Olson was asked.
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“I’d do it. I’d race my friends,” he said.
SMS counselor Maryann Bonneville, family engagement coordinator LeAnn Egnash and principal David Jensen have been working on the project since February.
“Studies show that kids who are active and kids who get physical activity throughout their day are better learners,” Bonneville said. “They can focus more and they can learn better.”
Spartan Wellness Way joins a growing number of sensory paths in the area. Both Bryant and Northwestern elementary schools installed sensory paths in 2019. Such paths offer benefits for older students, as well.
“Any kid, even adults would benefit from the activities,” Bonneville said.
The paths at the middle school are available for teachers to use with students throughout the day. They can provide a moment of self-care, encourage physical activity and bolster social-emotional health.
Having dual courses allows students to compete with each other, adding an element of competition.
“There are so many positives to it. It looks simple, just a bunch of stickers on the floor,” Bonneville said. “When you can use it in the right way and when you can be mindful about how kids are getting breaks and getting opportunities to move …”
“It’s almost like taking a time out in a positive way,” Egnash said.
Egnash designed the paths, which incorporate both high-energy activities and calming ones. Each component can be used in different ways — students could tiptoe or lunge through the tires, balance or cartwheel across a beam.
In the middle is the affirmation hopscotch. As students move through it, they can repeat the affirmations they step on to themselves: “I am powerful, brave, smart, curious, loved …”
“Maybe they don’t hear it from outside, but they can say it to themselves, can build themselves up,” Egnash said.
Midway through the last school year, SMS began offering a mini-recess to students. After the first 15 minutes of lunch, they were dismissed to open gym where they could shoot hoops or talk with friends. Jensen said they’d like to open Spartan Wellness Way up during that time frame in the future.
Spartan Wellness way was custom made by Arrowhead Printing of Superior. The business makes many types of floor graphics, but this was the first time Arrowhead staff had been tapped to make a sensory path. It involved finding the right material from 3M and a little expertise.
“We have a large floor mat printer,” said Rob Anderson. “Laminate and cut it out, then put the puzzle back together.”
While they could have purchased a sensory path kit online, the SMS team chose to work with a Superior business.
“One, we were able to support local. Two, they’re here and able to install. Three, they actually offered a better price than we were able to get online. And four, it’s customized,” Bonneville said.
Anderson left them with extra graphics for when the stations start to wear out. Egnash said they hope to partner with Arrowhead Printing in the future to add additional floor and wall graphics encouraging activity in other areas of the school.
Spartan Wellness Way, Bonneville said, is just the beginning.