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 Paige has a physical disability and is not able to access the playground equipment at McConnell, most of which is out of date, broken beyond repair, and does not meet current safety standards.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


Bea Lyons Honored At “Tea For Bea”

When Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Kimberly McCormick, established the Faculty Fellows Program during 2014, several well-known and respected educators were named as inaugural fellows. The Social and Behavioral Science Division honored Bea Lyons as its fellow. A special “Tea for Bea” was recently held to serve as a springboard for the first endowed fellowship ... (click for more)

Chattanooga State Kimball Announces Early College Open House

Chattanooga State Community College announces an Early College Open House on Wednesday from 4-6 p.m. CST at the Chattanooga State Kimball Site at 2100 Main St. in Kimball. College representatives will be on site to answer questions, assist with dual enrollment grant applications and process registrations on the spot.  Chattanooga State's Early College Program gives students ... (click for more)

Unexpected Amount East Ridge Owes On Fire Hall Property Rises To $603,000; City To Apply For Reimbursement

The unexpected amount the city of East Ridge will owe the state on the fire hall property in connection with the Bass Pro development has risen to $603,000. Earlier, East Ridge officials said the payment would be $428,000. City Manager Andrew Hyatt said Monday, "The Tennessee Department of Transportation notified the city of East Ridge that an appraisal of the city’s former ... (click for more)

Fire Breaks Out At House Off Highway 58

A fire broke out on Memorial Day afternoon at a house off Highway 58. A 911 call was made at 12:10 p.m. reporting a house fire at 6019 Hillcrest Dr. The Highway 58 Volunteer Fire Department responded and found fire showing on an addition to the house. Firefighters worked quickly entering the addition to extinguish the fire from spreading to the main level of the house. ... (click for more)

A Memorial Day Reflection

I wish I could find that combination of words that would capture an inclusive meaning of Memorial Day.  I have attended many Memorial Day programs at the Chattanooga National Cemetery, so many that now they have merged into one memory.  But what stands out is that each year there are more friends and veterans to visit.  Some gave their all many years ago.  And ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Keep Your ‘Dirty’ Feed

Mark Twain once observed the difference in a cat and a lie is that a cat only has nine lives. You might remember that when you hear that a group of Tennessee Walking Horse trainers just donated two tons of horse feed “to aid and assist in the rehabilitation” of 55 horses that were rescued from deplorable conditions at a West Tennessee farm. The truth is that the horses were taken ... (click for more)