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St. James Elementary School in Port aux Basques has new sensory pathway

Students at St. James Elementary have plenty of new things to look at in the hallways of the school. A new sensory pathway was installed in both the upper and lower corridors. Students Kate Smith and Lucy Anderson, front, and Nathan Scott and Jake Anderson, back, show off some of the new decals. JOAN CHAISSON/THE GULF NEWS
Students at St. James Elementary have plenty of new things to look at in the hallways of the school. A new sensory pathway was installed in both the upper and lower corridors. Students Kate Smith and Lucy Anderson, front, and Nathan Scott and Jake Anderson, back, show off some of the new decals. JOAN CHAISSON/THE GULF NEWS - Contributed

Students at St. James Elementary may have thought they were walking into an entirely new school this September. 
During the summer months, a sensory path was installed in both the upstairs and downstairs corridors of the elementary school.  
Sensory paths are colourful, creative and playful ways for kids to build sensory pathways or connections in the brain that are responsible for sight, touch and sound, which enable kids to complete complex, multi-stage tasks. 
School principal Denise Francis says the pathways also create opportunities for movement breaks and gross motor development. In addition to being beneficial for all children, she said, it also creates a welcoming and colourful school atmosphere.  
The pathways, she says, are designed for all children to use throughout their day as needed. It promotes physical activity as well as allowing students an opportunity to release pent up energy, to redirect an emotion or behaviour and/or to gain relief from a sensory need.
Parents do not have to worry that their children may trip up or move the decals on the floor. 
“The summer caretakers prepared the floor by removing all traces of wax first," Francis explained. "Then, once the team of staff members had laid the patterns, the caretakers added three coats of wax. It’s quite a detailed and meticulous process.” 
Francis explained that the school is in the second year of the province’s three-year education action plan, which aims to bring all elementary schools in line with responsive teaching and learning plan. The three pillars of this plan are social-emotional learning, literacy, and numeracy.
“Social-emotional learning will be a big focus for us this year as a Phase 2 school in the EECD’s Education Action Plan with opportunities to improve on our strategies which build on social-emotional learning for all students," Francis said. 
Funding to purchase these patterns came from a $1,000 donation from the previous minister of education and a $1,000 donation from Western Health, which was secured through a grant the local AIM (Autism Involves Me) group received. This allowed the school to get two paths — one upstairs and one downstairs. 
When asked if this idea should be done in other schools, Francis answered in one word: “Absolutely!" 
She hopes to incorporate other sensory ideas to the school in the future.
“We always are on the search for ideas to improve the daily school experience for all children," she said. "Many of the ideas we have
implemented for those with sensory needs are also beneficial for anyone who just needs a physical break or a quiet place to think and be calm.”

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