Occupational Therapy Assistant students create sensory pathway for local school

Feb. 7, 2020 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. Students in Grand Rapids Community College’s Occupational Therapy Assistant program are putting what they’ve learned into practice to benefit an area elementary school.

Members of GRCC’s Student Occupational Therapy Association designed a “sensory pathway” that they will install at New Branches Charter Academy, 3662 Poinsettia Ave. SE. 

“These pathways have been found to promote increased attention, concentration and behavioral control by supporting students’ need for movement in an organized and structured fashion,” said Matthew Mekkes, director of GRCC’s OTA program.

A group of 10 GRCC students researched ideas for the pathway and coordinated with New Branches’ occupational therapist and principal to make sure the design met the needs of the preschool through eighth-grade students who will use it. They also created a “how-to” poster that will hang near the pathway and an instructional video for New Branches staff.

“My favorite part of this project has been watching everything come together,” said Elizabeth Bell, a member of the Student Occupational Therapy Association. “When all the fears and worries about how it will all get done get taken care of by people who have a true passion for students’ success, it makes me feel very proud to be a part of something like that.”

The OTA students will install the “Space Walk” pathway, funded through a donation from Wolverine Heating & Cooling Inc., on Feb. 16. 

But that won’t be the end of their work: Space Walk will have an official unveiling at 9 a.m. Feb. 18. Student Occupational Therapy Association members will explain the project and take some New Branches students through the pathway.

“Space Walk is going to provide students with a chance to channel excess energy by allowing them to walk, jump, bounce and push through their distractions, helping them to concentrate on class work,” Bell said.

Assistant professor Robin Pegg, academic fieldwork coordinator and advisor to the Student Occupational Therapy Association, said New Branches students aren’t the only ones who will benefit from the pathway project.

“One of the things that’s really phenomenal about such projects is that they give students the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned to a real situation,” Pegg said. “They make real-life connections with impact and efficacy.”

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.


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