South Orangetown Central School District

When William O. Schaefer Elementary School students have the wiggles, they can take a brain break and head to their brand-new “sensory hallway,” thanks to Occupational Therapist Beth Kaplan and Special Education teacher Heidi Hill!

A segment of one of the school’s hallways now features an activity circuit that includes hopscotch, jumping jacks, frog leaps and wall push-ups. Ms. Kaplan and Ms Hill created the sensory hallway with colorful decals last weekend.

“Sensory hallways help improve self-regulation for children by providing movement breaks that improve attention and focus,” Ms. Kaplan explained. “Instead of passively walking through the hallway, students are encouraged to jump, balance and push. This is a wonderful way to provide heavy work in their environment. Heavy work is any type of activity that pushes or pulls against the body providing feedback to the joints, providing body awareness. It can help both calm an overly active child and stimulate a tired, unfocused student.”

Ms. Hill agreed, adding “It is really great for all students. Even our youngest learners spend a good part of their day on academic tasks such as reading and writing. The sensory hallway provides them with a physical outlet when they are feeling fidgety and to help them to refocus. As adults, we know the importance of physical exercise to keep us physically and emotionally healthy. It’s important that we give our students the same opportunity.”

First-graders Ian and Aubrey demonstrated how students may use the sensory hallway. “I used it during Fundations yesterday and it helped me get my sillies out so I could be calmer,” said Aubrey, who is partial to hopscotch.

Ian likes wall push-ups best and had also found the sensory hallway to be helpful. “It was helpful to me yesterday. It helps get your wiggles out by exercising,” he reported.

“When Beth and Heidi approached me with the idea, I thought it would be a great opportunity for students to have movement breaks throughout the day,” said Principal Sheila Beglin. “We plan to create sensory hallways throughout the building.”

Check out the video of WOS first-graders Ian and Aubrey demonstrating how to use the sensory hallway on Facebook.

Two teachers crouching in sensory hallway