McConnell Elementary Partners With Playcore To Build New Inclusive Playground

Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Old playground
Old playground

Six-year-old Paige Collins loves everything about coming to school, but she especially loves seeing her friends every day. Paige can often be seen in the hallways, classrooms, and cafeteria at McConnell Elementary School surrounded by her friends, who think she is “funny, sweet, smart, and cool.” But when she goes to recess with her class, everything changes. “I can’t play, so I just watch,” she says. Paige has a physical disability and is not able to access the playground equipment at McConnell, most of which is out of date, broken beyond repair, and does not meet current safety standards. “We usually just walk around or play ball,” one student says, “because a lot of the stuff is broken anyway.”

Children who learn together learn to live together. McConnell Elementary School has always been dedicated to celebrating the similarities and differences that make us a community. This year, the school is undertaking a project that will allow it to take curriculum outside the walls and create inclusive opportunities for social and academic development in children of all abilities. McConnell is partnering with Playcore to build an inclusive playground that will allow children of all abilities to learn and play together in a fully accessible and developmentally appropriate play space.

“Playcore is a leader in creating universally designed play environments that increase the 'playability' for people of diverse abilities, age, race, gender, ethnicity, culture, and socioeconomic status.  Designing inclusive play environments that meet the seven Principles of Inclusive Playground Design is a critical first step in providing the foundation for inclusive play to occur. Taking inclusive play to the next level by educating children about similarities and differences supports character education initiatives while further ensuring meaningful play for children of all abilities outdoors.” (Playcore.com)

“Inclusive playgrounds make a fundamental statement about a community’s social values and belief in every child’s right to play. They provide active and meaningful experiences that recognize the strengths, individuality, dignity, and abilities of people of all ages and abilities. Inclusive playgrounds encourage equal play opportunities, full participation in play, and promote independence. The social and physical inclusion of caregivers who have disabilities is also addressed when these individuals can supervise & participate in play." (Casey, 2005. Inclusive Play)

Research shows that providing inclusive play opportunities for children of all abilities supports social skills, healthy physical development, and academic skills. These opportunities allow teachers to teach to the whole child by promoting physical, sensory, cognitive, social, and communication development.

But this project is more than building a playground. It’s even more than building a playground for students with disabilities. It is about growing a culture of acceptance and inclusion of every child as a part of the community of learners.  It is about the opportunity to teach all of our children the value of every individual. McConnell’s future leaders, the future leaders of the community, will learn that people of all abilities have interests, abilities and challenges. They will learn that people are more alike than different, and that all kids like to play and have fun, that all kids can learn, they just may do it differently.

This project is about taking curriculum outside our walls to create exciting and enriching learning opportunities for all kinds of learners. School officials are excited about the opportunity to give all of the students a fun and developmentally appropriate play space where every member of the community can play, learn and grow together.

The Hixson community has already shown McConnell Elementary School a tremendous amount of support through monetary contributions, donated time from construction companies, contractors, and volunteer grant writers. McConnell has secured approximately $48,000 of the roughly $91,000 cost with the help of Playcore, volunteer committee members, the Public Education Foundation, individual donations from parents and community members, PMI Chattanooga, the Lakesite community, the Hixson Kiwanis Club, The Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga, Hamilton County Commissioner Marty Haynes, District 3 School Board representative Dr. Greg Martin, and Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger.

For anyone interested in helping build the playground, there are many ways to help. Make a donation to McConnell Elementary School’s playground fund. Buy a commemorative brick for the walkway to the playground in honor of a current or past McConnell student or a loved one. Sign up to volunteer with the community build. 

Officials said, "Let us know if you have talents to share that could help with the project. Contact Amy Thomson at thomson_a@hcde.org for more information on how you can help McConnell build an inclusive playground for children of all abilities that becomes a destination play environment for the community."


Suzuki Named Executive Director For UTC International Programs

Takeo Suzuki has joined the administration at UTC as executive director of International Programs. Mr. Suzuki has most recently served as executive director for International Relations at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith.  “We are very fortunate to have Takeo joining our team here at UTC," said Dr. Jerald Ainsworth, UTC provost.  "He brings a depth of experience ... (click for more)

Fifteen Baylor Seniors Chosen For Round Table

Fifteen Baylor seniors have been selected for the school's 74th Round Table.  Founded in 1942, the literary discussion group emphasizes independent thought and lively debate.   Selection to Round Table is considered to be among Baylor's highest honors, said officials. Members are Vice President Anna Barot, Cassie McCarley, Maggie Holmes, Secretary Maggie Pierce, ... (click for more)

DA Pinkston Asks City Police To Investigate Fatal Shooting By County Deputies Of Man They Chased Into The City Limits

District Attorney General Neal Pinkston has asked Chattanooga Police to investigate a fatal shooting involving Hamilton County deputies who chased a suspect from Old Lee Highway to Pine Marr Drive inside the city limits. At Pine Mar, the suspect crashed and shots were fired resulting in the suspect’s death.  DA Pinkston said he would have no further comment. Pine ... (click for more)

DISH And Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. Finalizing Long-Term Deal; Stations To Be Restored

DISH Network L.L.C. and Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. have reached an agreement in principle that will form the basis of a long-term retransmission consent agreement for carriage of Sinclair’s local channels in 79 markets nationwide. Restoration of Sinclair signals to DISH’s system is underway. “We are grateful for the FCC’s work on behalf of consumers to actively broker ... (click for more)

The Obvious In School Test Scores - And Response (3)

I have been watching what has become an annual event in Chattanooga, which is the hand wringing and blame game associated with low test scores in our schools.  I keep waiting for someone to bring up what should be obvious unless they either don't want to talk about it or think they shouldn't because it might not be politically correct.   1) The highest school test scores ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Her Heart Will Go On

Tonight’s a big night in Las Vegas, one of the biggest in quite a while. Celine Dion, truly one of the most magnificent singers of our time, will return to the stage of the Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace after a year’s absence and, if you dare think you can get a seat, it has been sold out for months. Of course, they say in Vegas you can buy anything, but tonight is one of the toughest ... (click for more)