A more welcoming and inclusive playground is in the works for Mattie McCullough Elementary School.
Inclusive playgrounds are designed for children with disabilities, either mental or physical. In the case of Mattie McCullough, the school council is looking for options to create a more accessible space for children who are in wheelchairs.
“We feel very strongly that our playgrounds in communities need to be accessible to all children,” said Mattie McCullough school principal Karen Vanderwater.
“We have two children in wheelchairs that attend our school and it is really difficult for them to get across our playground to play with other children and participate on the equipment. We’re looking at putting in pathways and different ground instead of sand. We’re also looking at buying equipment that is accessible to the children, either in their wheelchairs or with safety straps and chairs that they can sit in.”
She said ‘inclusion’ is a pillar of the school’s code and these structural changes to the playground would address that topic.
Vanderwater said the school council and a parent committee have been in charge of fundraising for the playground. She said the committee and staff are in the early stages of figuring out the equipment but that the playground will not come cheap.
“We’re raising money through our Know-A-Thon at school in April, and then we’ll be concentrating on that project and getting something in the works so that the kids can get through that and play with their peers,” Vanderwater explained.
The Know-A-Thon is a fundraiser where kids do math facts and receive pledges from family members and friends. The students have a chance to practice their math lessons and seek supporting pledges from community members. As well, the school works with a local nursery to sell flowers for funds.
“We’re really careful about how much fundraising we do. We try to concentrate it on one or two things. We’re also going to be looking into some grants, so we can get a bit of money there. However, most of the money comes from the Know-A-Thon, that’s our big fundraiser,” Vanderwater explained.
Currently, the parent committee is doing research into types of equipment available for students. Resources such as www.inclusiveplaygrounds.org are available to help schools and City planning committees in deciding which types of equipment are best suited to the needs of the community.
“We’re just getting together as a committee to look at costs of equipment, and we’re in the process of waiting for some quotes on the total construction cost,” Vanderwater said.
“However, we do have to work with the City Parks department in order to actually lay down the ground and get some of that work done, so we know this is a process where we have to wait to move it forward. We are hoping to have some construction started this spring, though.”
“We just really feel that it’s important to serve our community as a whole. We want to make sure that all children’s needs are met. It’s important that kids learn about their community and what that entails, and it’s good for them to be a part of it in terms of making everyone feel comfortable.”