More than chalk on the walk, Kerrydale applies brain research to reinforce learning
Posted on 11/26/2018
Picture of four students placing hands on top of hand prints on outside of school buildingRecess is looking better than ever at Kerrydale Elementary School, with the play area outside the gym transformed by art. While graphic art on playgrounds is not novel, Kerrydale Principal Alyse Zeffiro thought implementing the idea at her school would brighten the children’s play area and sharpen minds.

“Tapping into the many ways in which students learn is one of the keys to student achievement,” said Zeffiro. “We know students learn best if they are engaged and having fun. If recess can be an activity that is more than teaching social skills and teamwork, why not take the steps to exercise bodies and minds?”

Physical Education Teacher Michael Mathias led the art project, eliciting help from his family and Music Teacher Meghan Pettit to paint the images, which cover an area about 15 yards by 15 yards.

“The thought was to provide an engaging activity that students of all abilities could use. The ‘sensory path’ is a strategy to engage students’ senses and make learning interesting, fun, and memorable,” said Mathias.

Mathias explains that the sensory path is set up so that students must use both left and right sides of their bodies to complete each section. This helps their brains build stronger nerve connections, encourages motor skill development and problem solving, and helps support math and language development.

The painted line of white, bright pink, green, and red footprints; lime green vines; curving lines of black and white dots; a row of green Pac-men; giant hopscotch blocks in white, blue and grey; and circles with multiple colors are designed to keep students on the move.

“Ideally, the path will also help with behavior, giving students an outlet for their energy and refocusing their brains,” said Mathias.

There are lines drawn in a zig-zag pattern for students to traverse while pretending to balance themselves as if on a tightrope; hopscotch games to learn the alphabet and fractions; white stars on which to stomp and roar; wide, blue, wavy lines which encourage students to “jump the creek,” and circles within circles on which to spin and twirl. Completing all activities gives students a great cardio workout, too.

“The sensory path encourages students to explore, investigate, observe, and experiment. The path will be used year-round, and we hope to add to it as the year progresses,” said Mathias. “It is used by all classes, and many teachers take their students through it during recess.”