Nestled between Oconee State Park and Lake Keowee in Oconee County, students at Tamassee-Salem Elementary School are reaping the benefits of active pathways, also known as sensory pathways, and blacktop games, and so are community members. In 2022, former Physical Education Teacher Leah Ryan made it her mission to give the students, teachers and community an outlet for brain breaks and fun physical activity. She applied for a Wholespire Healthy Eating and Active Living Mini-Grant and got it!
Sensory pathways have become a popular tool for school administrators and teachers to help students stimulate their cognitive activity with movement. They are a series of visual cues on the ground that guide students along a particular path. From jumping, leaping, and walking a line, students follow the guided paths for a fun break between classes, during indoor recess and other ways teachers choose to incorporate them into their lesson plan.
In his letter of support, Tamassee-Salem Elementary School Principal Bobby Norizan said, “What I love about this initiative is that it is sustainable, and simply put, it is something that will help make physical activity more enjoyable. We have several families use our walking track outside of school hours, but I feel like we will be providing more opportunities other than simply walking the track if we are able to add the active pathway activities.”
Principal Norizan said, “The Four Square games not only provide an opportunity for physical activity but also opportunities for students to socially interact within the rules during active play, which is vital regarding the developmental growth of their students.”
Tamassee-Salem Elementary School received funding for the purchase of reusable stencil kits and paint. They leveraged 12 hours of volunteer time to place and paint the pathways. Pathways were placed on the walking path, a paved sidewalk that circles the school. Four Square games were placed in the recess area.
Mrs. Ryan said in her application, “A couple of teachers use the path as a brain break for their students. This active pathway will encourage more teachers to take their students outside more, and students will get to benefit from the open play. I teach students how to play Four Square in my physical education class. It is an easily accessible and simple game to play. Having the courts will give students access to a physically active game they can play at recess.”
Community members in Tamassee and Salem who use the walking path for physical activity benefit from the active pathways too. The School District of Oconee County adopted an Open Community Use Policy, which allows community members to use outdoor recreational facilities on school grounds for physical activity and play. Now, children aren’t the only ones who can jump, leap and walk a line as they navigate the path. Adults can too!
Physical activity is not just a vital component of a healthy lifestyle; it also plays a crucial role in academic success and overall well-being, especially in the school environment. More and more school administrators and teachers are emphasizing the integration of physical activity into the daily lives of students. Administrators and teachers at rural Tamassee-Salem Elementary School are part of the growing innovation in creating healthier school environments.