Green River Star -

By Lillian Palmer
Staff Writer 

Harrison opens inclusive playground


Lillian Palmer

Harrison Elementary School second graders Aleeyah Loya and Kelsey Cantrell help pull Jazelle Leasor in the specially-made all-inclusive zipline chair.

Playgrounds are a place for kids, though many playgrounds are not for all kids.

Often, school playgrounds and parks are not accessible for children with physical or mental disabilities. Many communities have no disability-friendly playgrounds at all. Until recently, Green River was one of those communities. Allan Demaret, the director of special services saw this as a problem.

"We've noticed for a while that the traditional playground that's found on our typical schools or even in our community was not accessible for all students and children," Demaret said.

A project was started to build a playground that every child could enjoy. This new playground was recently opened for use at Harrison Elementary School. So far, the playground has been readily used and populated during school hours and after, with both adults and kids utilizing it.

"It's a 100 percent all inclusive playground," Demaret said. "What we want is an opportunity for our students to go where they want to, have some self discovery, in addition to providing an environment that other kids are going to want to also play on. And now the playing field is a little bit more even, where our kids can access the same pieces of equipment that other kids are."

In order for the playground to be considered all-inclusive, it had to include three vital elements.

The playground had to be physically accessible. It also had to be developmentally appropriate for the students it serves. Additionally, it had to include the sensory needs of students with disabilities, that many other playgrounds do not take into consideration.

"What we're finding already in our short time of having it up is all kids are playing, and together, which is the whole key of having the inclusive playground, and we're really trying to develop that empathy from other students," Demaret said. "Whenever we can step back as adults and let the kids discover on their own, is a good step. That's what we do with kids that don't have disabilities, and now we're able to do that with our students that do have disabilities and really allow them to explore and be social with their friends, without having to have an adult doing the hand over hand with them."

The kids were playing independently. Kids are playing together as one, and helping each other, looking out for the other.

"The level of self confidence in a lot of our students has really gone up," Harrison's adaptive P.E. teacher Tracy Giesenhagen said. "They do a lot more on there own, on the equipment than they did in the past at the larger pieces of equipment. It allows them more freedom to play without us being directly with them all of the time, so it gives them that independence piece. It's great. It just gives them the great opportunity to interact."


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