When kids head back to Conway Elementary next week, they’ll find that one of the quieter back hallways at the Stafford County school has been transformed into an “activity hallway.”
The neutral, gray floor tiles and walls have been covered with large, shiny, colorful decals to depict the five geographical regions of Virginia—the Coastal Plain, the Piedmont, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Shenandoah Valley and the Appalachian Plateau.
“The idea is that when kids get fidgety, teachers can either send them here individually, or the whole class can come here,” said Michele Repass, assistant principal at Conway, who led the development of the activity hallway.
Kids can follow a curving trail of footprints in the sand or pretend to pick up the fish in the Coastal Plains area, find all the butterflies, bumblebees and ladybugs scattered along the floor and walls in the Piedmont area, count the apples in the Blue Ridge area and identify the paw prints in the Appalachian Plateau area.
There’s a place where kids can do wall push-ups, there are opportunities to play counting, matching and sorting games and many hidden details to engage their minds.
“The kids can use the space any way they want to,” Repass said, adding that it can also be used as a place to hold indoor recess.
Repass got the idea for the activity hallway after seeing a Facebook post about one from the principal of a Manitoba, Canada, elementary school.
With the support of Principal J.R. Raybold, Repass gathered a panel of Conway teachers to come up with how to interpret the idea for their school.
They decided to represent the geographical regions of Virginia because fourth grade students study them each year.
“The whole thing is so fantastic and sensory, and to have it tied into curriculum is even better,” Raybold said. “The other cool thing is that it was done by kids in Stafford County.”
North Stafford High School students in Susan Caldwell’s graphic design class created the decals and wall wraps. They tweaked and added to stock images they found online and designed other elements from scratch.
Rising junior Marnay Aeri–Burns designed the signs that introduce each geographical area. She based the sign for the Appalachian Plateau area on Appalachian Trail signs and the one for the Piedmont area on hand-painted road signs.
“I enjoyed it,” she said. “I’m a little jealous! I would have loved this in my elementary school.”
Caldwell said other Stafford County schools have learned about the idea and reached out to her. She and her students are planning to create and install activity hallways at all the county elementary schools this year.
The whole thing is so fantastic and sensory, and to have it tied into curriculum is even better. The other cool thing is that it was done by kids in Stafford County. —J.R. RAYBOLD,