Harlingen Area Educational Foundation
BY: CAMRYN HILL
New school years can bring a lot of excitement, hope, and occasionally some first day of school jitters.
Travis Elementary is ready to help relieve student stress throughout the school year with a sensory pathway, a project funded by a grant from the Harlingen Area Educational Foundation.
“Of course, at the beginning of the year we have a lot of kids who are coming in for the first time, and it’s the first time without mom and dad,” Travis Elementary school counselor Sandra Garza said. “It can be really hard for some of them. The pathway can teach the kids to be self-motivating and to recognize when they need a break.”
The sensory pathway at Travis Elementary is composed of various paths throughout campus that students can navigate to help reduce stress.
Garza comprised a committee that assisted in planning what to include in the paths and where to set up the pathways.
“Our campus has officially been named a STEM campus, so we went with some science and math geared sensory paths just to kind of keep the flow of the STEM Academy,” Garza said. “We did look into having some paths outside that are made up of different kinds of textures for kids to walk on their bare feet. You have a brick, or some grass, or different kinds of sandpaper, all different kinds of textures.”
The Travis Sensory Pathway is all-inclusive.
“It can be used by any student, whoever needs a break, or just wants to do it for fun,” Garza said. “The sensory pathway can be used for testing anxiety, or it can be used for a mental break, a brain break as we call it here in elementary. It can be for various things.”
The sensory pathway at Travis will be available at the start of this school year. Students will be highly encouraged to use the pathways whenever needed.
“I’m going to encourage the students to use the pathway as much as possible,” Garza said. “I’m going to encourage the teachers to bring students, you know, on the way to and from water breaks, lunch, recess, the library, to go through one of those and allow each student to kind of just take a quick minute to navigate through one of the sensory paths and get a lot of benefit out of it.”
The staff and administration at Travis Elementary cannot wait to see how students will react to the new sensory pathways.
“It will be fun when the students see the pathway because they will come in one day and it’s not there and on the next day it will be there, so it will be something really exciting,” Garza said. “Mental health is a serious issue. The pathway is going to be really beneficial for the kids.”