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 Paige has a physical disability and is not able to access the playground equipment at McConnell, most of which is out of date, broken beyond repair, and does not meet current safety standards.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."



McCallie Middle School Awards Announced And Eighth-Graders Honored

Students in the McCallie Middle School gathered with family and friends to celebrate another year in McDonald Hall with Middle School Awards Day in the morning followed by the Eighth Grade Celebration that evening in the Chapel. Middle School Awards Day is a time to recognize the special achievements of the boys who will become the next generation of leaders at McCallie, especially ... (click for more)

GPS Celebrates Class Day

The GPS community on Thursday celebrated the accomplishments and character of outstanding students. As Chairwoman of Class Leadership Council, senior Raegan Lamb served as emcee for Class Day Awards ceremony. Ms. Lamb shared two things she'd gained from her seven-year GPS experience. “One: an incredible education that has pushed me far beyond limits I ever thought I could reach,” ... (click for more)

Man And Woman Killed In Sunday Morning Murder/Suicide At Hixson Gas Station

A man and a woman were killed in a Sunday morning murder/homicide at a gas station in Hixson. The shooting was shortly after 10 a.m. at a Shell station at Hixson Pike and Brookaire.  Upon arrival, police located Kimberly Phillips, 48, lying in the parking lot from an apparent gunshot wound.  Also in the same parking lot, officers located Frederick Tragresser, 47, ... (click for more)

$2,060,705 Tennessee Cash Jackpot Won In South Pittsburg Friday Night

A Tennessee Cash player in South Pittsburg won a near-record jackpot of $2,060,705 on  Friday  night. A Knoxville Powerball player won $50,000  Saturday  night by matching four of the five white numbers drawn plus the red Powerball. No information is available about the winners until the prizes are claimed. The  $315.3 million ... (click for more)

Brown V. Board (1954) 64 Years Late: Our Schools At A Crossroads

May 17, 1954 is a date forever etched upon the annals of American history because on that pivotal day the Supreme Court would affirm in the decision of Brown v. Board (1954). “We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” This ruling overturned the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Words For The Ages

I was probably one of few people in the entire world who didn’t get caught up in the Royal Marriage of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry this weekend. I got over having any semblance of ‘pomp and circumstance’ a long time ago and, as a rule, studiously avoid those apt to ‘put on airs and graces.’ By ignoring the magnificent occasion, I made a big mistake and today it is with delight ... (click for more)