Inclusive playground coming to first area elementary school - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Inclusive playground coming to first area elementary school

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NORTH LIBERTY (KWWL) -

The first school in the eastern Iowa area will soon have a playground fit for students of all needs.

Through the hard work of a teacher-parent group, North Bend Elementary in North Liberty, of the Clear Creek Amana School District, will be adding an inclusive part to its playground. Over the past three years, the group spent time writing out grant requests and doing fundraisers to raise $60,000 for it.

An inclusive playground breaks down physical barriers that could prevent a child with disabilities from being able to play on it. It also adds sensory elements. 

"The ramp goes directly in there so we can get students with wheelchairs or different disabilities in there," said Brenda Parker, North Bend's Principal, as she pointed to an area of the playground called a "sway fun." "[There are] a lot of different areas that a student will be able to access and be right up there with the rest of the students."

Areas of the playground would also make playing accessible to all children, with or without disabilities, such as a lower to the ground set of monkey bars and slide.

Parker said the hope is that students that would otherwise be limited will have more access on the playground with their classmates.

Inclusive playgrounds are not new to Iowa but this will be the first one at an elementary school in the eastern Iowa area.

North Bend was built in 2008, which means it has a fairly nice playground, but students in wheelchairs can't use it. Though the playground overall falls under ADA compliance, the school said that isn't good enough.

"This takes it to the new level because being compliant doesn't always necessarily mean that it's accessible for everybody," Parker said.

Erin Sheets is a preschool teacher at North Bend. In her classroom are both students with special needs and physical disabilities.

"In the classroom, everybody is included, everybody is able to do that stuff. It shouldn't change when they head out for recess," she said.

Sheets and other teachers launched a campaign called "Choose Kind." They sold t-shirts with that message all over the country to raise the last bit of funds for the playground.

"Kindness does matter, inclusive matters. Everybody should have a chance to play, no matter what," she said. Sheets said the campaign was a way to spread the message outside of the school.

Through it, teachers also made a video with the students about the need for an additional playground.

Parker said what started as a conversation about a playground has become a bigger movement in itself.

"It's about being kind to each other and recognizing limitations and disabilities in others, and doing something about it.  Being able to teach the students and help them understand that this should be the norm. It should be the norm that we are doing everything that we can to help everybody," she said.

While the inclusive playground will be at North Bend, Parker said she hopes it will also benefit the community as a whole.

North Bend has extended the time-period to buy shirts from its "Choose Kind" campaign. They hope to use additional funds to add more sensory items to the playground.

"Choose Kind" shirts can be found here.

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