Follow The Yellow Brick Road Or Jump Ship And Hope For A Clear Path?

This morning, I caught a tweet by the Peel District School Board, which commented on this new sensory path that’s in the hallway of Janet I. McDougald P.S..

Like other educators, I’ve seen some similar paths shared on social media before. This sharing often comes with lots of retweets and tons of positive comments, where educators, administrators, and consultants rave about the possibilities. Schools want these special paths. What am I missing here? Am I the only one that feels differently?

Please don’t get me wrong. I am completely behind more physical activity for kids. In fact, we start our day outside every day, and much of this outside time has children climbing, running, and moving. Many of our kids need a big run to start the day.

For some children, it seems to be this additional movement that makes them calm enough to learn. For other children, who might come to school tired, the run wakes them up. They also need it to learn! But from what I’ve seen, many of our kids need big, open movement, for a significant period of time. While these paths will get children going, which is great, are kids getting all of the movement that they need? Will the rigidity of some of these paths make it more challenging for them?

Then there’s the sensory component to consider. As a kindergarten educator, I’ve worked — and continue to work — with many children who find sensory play calming. In fact, when my teaching partner, Paula, and I find the play less settled, we often look at how to add another sensory component. We share many Instagram posts where we reflect on children’s needs for sensory experiences.

One thing that I’ve learned from Paula over the years is that for those children that need this sensory play, they also often need a lot of it to really support Self-Reg. I think of these washing experiences from the past …

… where we often went through a container of dish soap a day (or more). For these children, will there be enough sensory input on the path to meet their needs? If not, how many times do they travel the path?

I then think about some of the activities included. I have to admit that as soon as I saw the alphabet track with the arrows, my heart started to beat a little faster. Which way would I go? What about the arrows that seem to be going backwards? Are kids moving from all directions, all at the same time? This was like a visual spatial nightmare to me. As I walked the picket line today and shared my stress with Paula, she joked that she could see me standing there all day just wondering which way to go. 🙂 That would totally be the case! Are there any kids out there like me? How do we support them when on the path?

Finally, I start to wonder about how kids are moving in the hall, and what this will mean when they get to their classrooms. Will the jumping, running, spinning, etc., make them ready to learn? I have no doubt that kids will (and do) love it, and that all will want to try it, but is it really meant for everyone? If not, how do we help students in making the choice that’s right for them?

I wonder if some of these paths instead point to the need for us to consider Self-Reg in our classroom environments. What does this look like, especially when we think about the “self” component of Self-Reg? Are there elements of these paths that could make it into our rooms, thus supporting kids that need these options when they need them? Or maybe I need some path education instead. I could be missing the wonderful behind them, and need a different perspective. I hope this post can be the start of a good conversation.

Aviva — The Yellow Brick Road Was Never For Me 🙂

4 thoughts on “Follow The Yellow Brick Road Or Jump Ship And Hope For A Clear Path?

  1. Hi Aviva, I love your thinking processes and your total honesty. I do understand where you are coming from and wonder where the ‘free choice’ or ‘free play’ comes in to play with a Sensory Path. I do love nature of course, but wish children could access it as it is available ‘authentically’ where it grows. Perhaps more garden beds that are accessible as a choice, seating there, different scents of flowers and herbs. I do try to promote more sensory for Self-Regulation and wish it was more available to the slightly older children as in JK/SK and Grades one and two. Tons to learn there and great ways of self-regulating and co-regulating with peers. Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Thanks for your comment, Monica! I love your thinking about some different nature possibilities. It’s not a surprise that I’m a big proponent of free play, and maybe the additional structure of the path also makes it harder for me. I wonder though if these kinds of paths are ways of looking at Self-Reg beyond the early years. Thinking about Stuart Shanker’s definition of Self-Reg, I do wonder about the “self” component here, but it could be the start of something. Does it then get educators thinking about talking about other classroom possibilities? Are there ways of extending on the path in the classrooms? This is something that would excite me. I’m curious to hear about other people’s experiences. Maybe I also need an inside look at some of these paths.


  2. My school has mainly white tile in the halls, but there are some islands and straightaways of either blue or yellow. They dysregulate many kids. Instead of walking calmly back to class, they are hopping and skipping. They can get quite noisy and disrupt other classes. I think about that when I see the sensory hallway stickers. We just had our playground replaced and I can’t wait to get out in the spring to paint stuff on the pavement. That’s where I think a sensory pathway belongs: hopscotch, maybe a maze to wander through. I worry that indoor behaviour and outdoor behaviour get all mixed up for some kids and then they end up being unsafe or disruptive inside. I wonder if a sensory pathway could be created without the floor stickers. Like the exercise paths that have signs and equipment for strength training at certain intervals – maybe posters on the wall promoting stops for calming…I’m going to think more about this! A calming walk path? Maybe.

    • Thanks for the comment and sharing your experience, Lisa! I definitely like the idea of these paths more outside than inside. I wonder too though if the space to run and move outside already helps meet these needs for kids.

      Your comment about a walking path is interesting. Would these signs distract kids or focus them? I continue to wonder if considering these sensory or movement needs could be done in the classroom instead. Would kids then have enough time and support to meet these needs that might be more restricted in the hallway?


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