Blacktop Makeover: Beech Tree Elementary Creates Interactive Experience with Sensory Pathways

By Office of Communication and Community Relations
October 11, 2022

Bright colors, interactive design, and creative play is on full display just outside the back doors of Beech Tree Elementary School in Falls Church. Staff spent the summer creating multiple sensory pathways on the blacktop to help children engage and challenge the traditional recess activities. 

“The students are structured all day long, so it’s great to provide them with these designs on the blacktop.” said art teacher Greg Skrtic. “When the students first came out here they asked ‘how do you play this game?’ And I told them they have to create their own!” 

The conflict resolution circle outside Beech Tree Elementary School.

The project was headed by Skrtic and school counselor Yolonda Adams. They wanted to create something that would be both physically and mentally stimulating. After picking out the designs, staff and their families spent countless hours in the summer heat using stencils and spray paint to bring their vision to life. What was once a plain black asphalt surface soon transformed into a playful and vibrant outdoor space. 

“These are called sensory pathways because the students can take whatever path they want with the different things we have out here,” said Adams. “It gets their blood pumping and flowing. It helps with focusing when they go back inside. It helps them get the wiggles out. They are able to learn problem-solving out here as well.” 

Staff paints a design on the blacktop.
Art teacher Greg Skrtic works on a map of the United States. 

There are a variety of designs laid out on the blacktop including yoga poses painted on the ground, a map of the United States, a bean bag toss, and a conflict resolution circle. 

“I really like the yoga poses because if you’re mad you can go over there and calm down,” said 2nd-grader Oliver Escobar Morales. 

The yoga poses on the sensory path blacktop.
A student favorite: the yoga poses spray-painted on the ground offer a quiet place to unwind. 

With all the hours spent creating the blacktop for students, staff say they are thrilled to finally see the sensory paths in action. The space is bringing new life to recess, as children think outside the box and play with their friends in new ways. The students at Beech Tree ES say they are very thankful for this new outdoor learning experience. 

"I think it’s amazing how everybody decided to work together throughout the summer to paint everything. It’s really fun!" said 5th-grader Josie Rosenthal.

Students enjoy activities at Beech Tree Elementary School.