I began hearing about Stay & Play, a local effort to build a playground for our school, last year when funding for Stage 1 was reached, but-- and I cringe when I say this-- it didn't hold the same meaning for me as it does today. At the time, I didn't have the same awareness of students with severe physical needs as I do today. This school year, my class participated in a collaborative online project called Global Read Aloud. (Many of you are tired of me blogging about it, but I honestly cannot say enough goodness about this project... and the book we read as part of it.) Our class, along with thousands, upon thousands across the globe, all read the same book and met online through several venues to collaborate for #GRA13. The thing that made this project THE best project I've ever been a part of was the book we read- Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper. Not only did the main character, Melody who is severe disabled with CP, touch me- she touched my students, as well. We became more aware of those with needs. We started to get a glimpse of what it means to have such severe disabilities... for the individual, for his/her family, for his/her school. In trying to involve my students in real-world problem solving and use what we can for the betterment of community, Stay & Play became the perfect project for us to be a part of. After taking part in Global Read Aloud, we have a new appreciation for what's needed. Some may say a child seeing the sunshine on a daily basis is a basic right; for some, that's easier said than done when you have no where to go for play.
Stay & Play is a local effort being spearheaded by our school nurse, Kelly Meadows. It involves building a play ground on our school grounds in various stages with each stage being built after we receive funding for it.
Sounds simple. Right?... The unique detail of this project, and the reason I love it so, is that it isn't your typical school playground. Stay & Play will be a playground for students with disabilities. You see, our school sits on a huge (from our perspective), flat piece of land with a barren (but rather large) field area in the front that our students use as a "playground." While it isn't the best and most ideal, it works for us. We are able to stretch our legs, chase a friend or two, throw a ball as far as we can (if we haven't gotten in trouble with it already), and soak up some sunshine. While our field doesn't have the latest equipment as some schools have... or any equipment for that matter, we enjoy being outdoors. Our friends with severe disabilities do not have that pleasure. For them, the field is cumbersome, poses several risks, and doesn't fit their needs at all. So while we are outside enjoying the sunshine, they typically stay indoors. How fun can that be...???
Hence, the idea of Stay & Play was born. This state of the art playground has been set up to be built in stages. The first stage was underway last school year with the ceremonious ground breaking! We are still waiting to hear the results from several grants that have been submitted to see if funding for our next stage has been met. If so, we will be able to move to the next phase of building.
Innovative are the visionaries that see a simple piece of ground with a fence and picnic table as the revolutionary playground for special needs students; one that not only meets their physical needs, but there emotional and mental needs as well. Holistic play at its finest- and inclusive for all to play at its finest.
I'm excited to be a part of this effort to raise awareness within my community, but also raise awareness within my various circles I'm a part of... because having a place to play shouldn't be so complicated.
So how do you include your students with severe needs within your school community, as well as those not in your school, but in your extended community? Share the ideas of love, awareness, and acceptance for all.