Sensory aid for better learning

Interactive pathway at school adds to auditory teaching methods

Hudson Park Primary School’s foundation phase pupils have been using all their bottled-up energy on two new interactive and sensory pathways.

Designed by parent and former teacher Vicki Schlimper, the pathways offer pupils the chance to delve into free play activities that enhance their learning experience.

Situated in a corner of the foundation phase hall, the first pathway is a gross motor pathway that calls for pupils to use their larger muscles in different ways.

From hopping and skipping to twirling and balancing, each section of the gross motor pathway requires the children to complete a specific activity to get to the next pathway.

The other pathway, installed in the grade R playground, is tactile.

The children walk over it barefoot and experience different surfaces – wood, grass, rope, stones, sponge and more.

“It’s basically a ladder of squares that lies flat on the ground and each square has a different texture, so the children get to touch surfaces they may never have been exposed to before,” said Schlimper.

You can get all your ‘squiggles’ out by twirling, balancing, jumping, sliding, skipping and all that fun stuff

Foundation phase head Robin Heaton said the pathways formed part of the academic vision team’s plan to introduce as many sensory play areas as possible by the end of 2020. “Vicki [Schlimper] has been extremely instrumental in this whole thing.

“Our motto is ‘Back to Basics’ and essentially that is what we’re trying to do. We want to incorporate as much sensory and physical learning as possible,” said Heaton.

Schlimper said education had not changed much over the years and the focus had often been only on an auditory learning style, but “it’s wonderful to see the work Hudson is putting in to improve the teaching and learning system”.

Heaton said sensory learning had five main advantages – developing problem-solving and fine and gross motor skills, enhancing memory and supporting language development.

“Today we find that for a lot of kids, sitting in front of the TV or playing on an iPad is their form of play.

“They’re not climbing on trees or playing outside and using their senses and their muscles,” she said.

“We’ve already got some kids in occupational therapy, some as young as Grade R.

“You wouldn’t believe how many children don’t know how to hop, skip or hang on monkey bars, so we try to go back to playing as much as possible.”

Sensory play was vital for learning and the pathways also help to get children to use up excess energy they stored up in the classroom, she added.

“Sitting behind a desk inside four walls all day becomes very monotonous for many of the kids, so the more opportunity they have to move around and express themselves, the better,” Heaton said.

While the pathways were open to be used at break times, Heaton said teachers sometimes made use of them during the school day to assist “irritated” or “too energetic” children.

Grade 2 pupil Jordan Stagg said: “I like the sensory path because you can get all your ‘squiggles’ out by twirling, balancing, jumping, sliding, skipping and all that fun stuff.”