Have you ever seen a child walking past a picket fence with a stick? You can pretty much guarantee that the child will run that stick along the fence and listen to the sound it makes as it hits each post. This is because children take in the world through their senses. It’s not enough to just see the fence, they also want to feel it and hear it. And our brains are designed that way! We take in experiences and memories through all of our senses.
Now think about the typical elementary school. It’s pretty typical to see students in line in an elementary school running their hands along the walls as they walk. But it’s just as typical for a teacher to say something along the lines of, “Keep your hands to yourself” or “Please don’t touch the walls”.
But why can’t they touch the walls? Walls aren’t going to hurt a child. And when you think about how a brain is wired, it makes even more sense to allow them to use their senses to take in the world around them. Tactile experiences, like touching the wall, activate brain development. This is the kind of behavior we should be encouraging!
At Momentous School, we have a special wall designed just for this purpose. We talk to our students about how we use our senses to help our brains learn. And any time they walk past, they’re free to run their fingers along it. (And let’s be honest, lots of adults in the building are caught doing it, too!)
Sometimes a child just needs a sensory experience to calm down, and we use the wall for that as well. We’ve had opportunities to walk with a dysregulated student and allow him to run his hand up and down the wall a few times. After he’s calmed down, he’s able to open up in a way that he couldn’t previously. Again – this is a sensory experience activating brain development.
So here at Momentous School, we still expect our students to be calm and quiet in the hallways out of respect for the other students in the building, but there’s one rule we don’t worry about. We say, go ahead – touch the walls!
And by the way, our wonderful facilities crew made this wall using drywall. They made five different types of texture that run along our front hallway. It may have been one of their strangest requests, but they did a great job!