HAMDEN, Conn. (WTNH)– Ann Marie Blake is a second-grade teacher with a passion for education and a drive to help children grow. She has expressed her excitement over the unveiling of a first-of-its-kind “Grace Trail” at West Woods Elementary School in Hamden. 

Grace Trails are a new concept being implemented all over the country and act as a way for students to clear their heads and get away from any stressors by walking. Grace is also an acronym. It stands for Gratitude, Release, Accept, Challenge and Embrace. Contemplation of these ideas is the main goal of the trail.  

In Hamden, both students and faculty are glad to be the first to ever put this into practice at an elementary school.  

“It starts with gratitude, which is a wonderful way to begin any task and it ends with hope, so it ends with embracing the possibilities, so it’s a walk that you process, you’re thinking, you’re reflective. You’re asking questions, you’re answering questions, and I think every time you walk it you come away with something positive,” said Ann Marie Blake.  

Kristen Bell, a fifth-grade teacher, was also excited about the trail and believes it to be a reprieve for children in a digital, post-pandemic age.  

“Our kids have been through a lot. They have been disrupted in their schooling for the past couple of years because of the pandemic, but even aside from that, kids face a lot in their day-to-day lives,” Bell said.  

Anne Jolles is the founder of Grace Trails Inc. After dealing with her own struggles and overcoming them by going for walks, she aims to help others through the same means.  

Every Grace Trail is tailored to the individuals who will be using it the most, and there are even interactive signs along each trail for a more user-friendly experience. 

Jolles is also heavily involved with the new trail opening in Hamden. She is grateful that she can present elementary school students with some reprieve from their day-to-day lives and is excited about how much potential the trail provides. 

The public is also free to use the trail on weekends, and any other time when the school is not in session.