Pine Ridge Elementary creates ‘sensory hallway’ using district wellness grant


AURORA | Each year for the past four years, the Cherry Creek School District has allowed each school in the district to apply for $1,000 wellness grants, which can be used for anything related to student or teacher health and wellness.

In previous years, Pine Ridge Elementary School nurse Jessica Puga had used the grants for mental health resources for kids, yoga mats for students and staff and upgrades to the school’s lactation room. 

This year, she decided to do something more out of the box.

The school has a lot of bare walls, and Puga decided to create a sensory hallway along part of the wall leading into the library. With the help of her health liaison, Puga stocked up on materials from JoAnn’s Fabric and set to work.

The wall has been up for about a month and has been a big hit with Pine Ridge’s 700-plus students. It has different textures, including sequins that can be used to draw patterns and write words, and colored tiles that react when you step on them.

Along with the main wall, Puga also created a caterpillar inside the school’s National Park themed library — which she also designed — that has different textures and elements that kids can move around.

“We have a lot of indoor recess in the winters and it’s a place where kids can come and have an outlet,” Puga said. She’s seen some students use the hallway when they get overstimulated by being in a loud classroom and need a couple minute break.

The hallway has been particularly helpful for kids with special needs, she said, who often have more tactile needs. One student with autism Puga works with frequently who was always looking for things he could touch and interact with while in school particularly inspired her to create the wall. So far, she said he seems to love it.

Puga hopes the wall — which gets sprayed down with lysol ever day after school for sanitation — lasts in its current form through the end of the school year. She plans to add onto it over the years, she said.

Polton Elementary has a similar project, and Puga said she put together a list of all the materials she bought if other schools in the district want to build their own wall as well.

Principal Yvonne Jackson praised Puga for always coming up with creative ideas for the school. The wall is a big hit with kids, she said, and the sequins seem to be their favorite part. Whenever she walks students back to class and they pass the wall, they always stop.

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