In The News: Feeling fidgety in class? Go stomp, jump or hop down this school’s sensory hallway

Students at Roland School can also squat, do pushups or crawl down the main corridor to stay active

Heidi Peters, a Grade 1 student, finishes the Sensory Path after lunch at Roland School in Manitoba. Now she’s ready to head to class. (Karen Pauls/CBC)

In many Canadian schools, recess and phys-ed class may be the only activity students get in their day, but a school in rural Manitoba is trying to change that.

“This is our Sensory Path,” says Roland School principal Brandy Chevalier, as she points to a colourful activity map on the floor of the school’s main corridor.

“We are very focused on making sure our kids are learning both numeracy and literacy but also being mindful of their whole bodies and wellness, and wellness as a whole being.”

The path instructs them to hop, squat, do pushups and crawl.

They follow the path every morning and after lunch, on their way to class in this community about 100 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.

Kindergarten student Elizah Wall likes stomping on the bugs. Classmate Everly Semograd likes crawling on the flowers.

“Some parts are challenging, some parts are easy,” says 11-year-old Addison Elias.

If teachers notice students fidgeting, they will send them to the path for a couple of rounds.

Students Ethan Dyck and Caleb Mitchell say it’s making a difference.

“Really helps me calm down when I’m in a very active position … It’s just helps me burn some energy,” Caleb says, adding his favourite activity is the frog jump.

“Helps me focus,” Ethan ​adds.

Roland School’s Sensory Path is the first of its kind in Manitoba, Chevalier says. It was inspired by an Alberta initiative called Don’t Walk in the Hallway, launched in 2015.

Chevalier says she’s been approached by schools across Canada since her school installed the path in November.

Her students’ comments are music to her ears.

She explains how this helps the students. “They feel like they burned some energy. They feel ready to sit down and to get down to work. They can focus a little bit better.”

She hopes such exercise can become “a preventative measure for some behaviour issues that might happen by a child who cannot regulate themselves to sit in class.”

The benefits aren’t just academic. Doing exercises like this every day increases physical competence, which boosts confidence, making people more likely to move and be active.

That has health, social, environmental, and economic benefits.

But Canadians are just not moving enough. We got a C– in a recent study of activity levels in 49 countries.

It’s not how much you move. It’s not whether you’re fit or not. It’s do you have the ability to move on land, air, ice, snow, water?– Dean Kriellaars , University of Manitoba

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