BILLINGS - Students at Highland Elementary School are ready to rush back to school, but they might be actually tip-toeing back to the classroom thanks to a new sensory path at the school.
There are a lot of new activities here at the school, including a gaga ball pit and a new playground to keep the kids on their toes this school year.
But inside the school hallways, students are finding a way to "jump" right back into learning as they participate in things like hallway yoga and jumping on the frog path.
"The sensory path is a way for the kids to step out and check out and regain some composure before they step into a busy classroom," said parent and PTA member Jordan Teller.
Teacher Erin Evans said she likes the new hallway activities.
"It's also a great time for a teacher to take their kids out into the hallway, go through those motions of getting that movement going," she said. "We’re working on skills, hopping, balance."
While the sensory path was paid for through a COVID-19 grant, the new playground and gaga ball pit were part of a parent-driven, play it forward campaign that raised $120,000 and paid 5% of that forward to the next school in need of a playground.
"I went to school here and some of this playground equipment has been here since the 1980s when I was in school here," Teller said. "It's really cool to be able to play it forward to the next generation of kids."
The new gaga ball pit is worth cheering about too. It was painted by a local graffiti artist and Highland dad.
"He came here one night and put a projector on and sketched it all out and a day later he colored it in with spray paint," said Carmen Middle, the artist's wife. "He thought it was pretty cool since our kids go to school here so he has a personal connection."
Asked what he thought of his father's work, second-grader Jaxon said he liked the way it turned out.
"I was like, wow dad, that’s a very good job," he said. "It feels relaxing to play in and I like the whole entire thing."
His fellow students and teachers like the new playground and hallway additions too.
"We are seeing across the board in all health and PE, getting kids moving can increase test scores," Evans said.