Adaptive playground welcomes kids
BY AMELIA HARPER
Thursday, December 20, 2018
Members of the Down East Partnership for Children, Edgecombe County Public Schools and several other community organizations gathered Wednesday at G.W. Bulluck Elementary School to dedicate a new adaptive playground, the first of its kind in the Twin Counties.
The newly-constructed playground is designed to meet the needs of wheelchair-bound students and those with other special needs. The adaptive playground joins the school’s outdoor learning environment, which opened last year with help from a grant from the Kate. B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and the Down East Partnership for Children and other community partners.
“The community really did come together to fund this thing,” said Pattie Allen, ready schools coordinator for the Partnership. “So many hands were in this work, but it still took a year and a half to pull it all together.”
Allen is retiring from the partnership and Wednesday was her last official day. She received a special send off when school leaders announced that the new adaptive playground will be named “Pattie’s Place” in her honor.
“I had no clue they were going to name the playground after me,” she said. “I am in shock and I feel very honored.”
Allen said she has enjoyed working with Edgecombe County Public Schools on the outdoor learning environments at both G.W. Bulluck and G.W. Carver elementary schools. She said she plans to remain involved in some capacity in future playground projects despite her retirement.
“This is good work with good people. Edgecombe County schools are wonderful to work with. They want the best for their children and they are willing to pull together to help you figure out how to get it done,” Allen said.
Kelsey Ballard, principal of Bulluck Elementary School, said she is pleased with the new playground.
“It is amazing. For students who are wheelchair-bound or have any type of adaptive needs, this is the perfect place for them. They are able to come out and enjoy a playground like other children. In the past, they used some of the other playground equipment, but someone had to hold their hand the whole time. With this playground, they have more autonomy,” she said.
Ballard said most of the playground was completed in October and children have been using it ever since.
“We thought about making them wait until after the dedication before they used it, but the kids were too excited to wait,” Ballard said.
The path to and inside the fenced-in area is wheelchair accessible. The surface of the playground is made of pour-in-place rubber safety playground materials that allow for the use of wheelchairs but which protect students from skinned knees if they fall. The sandbox crane and the picnic table are both accessible from a wheelchair and one of the swings has a harness that provides extra support for students who need it. There is even a “cozy dome” where children on the autism spectrum can hide and feel protected if the playground experience becomes overwhelming.
Edgecombe County Public Schools Superintendent Valerie Bridges, said she is excited about the project as well.
“The adaptive playground takes into consideration a child’s disabilities, needs and struggles. Sometimes on a regular playground, these students need more support. Here they can be comfortable and safe. We have to meet kids where they are,” Bridges said.
Bridges said both the adaptive playground and the outdoor learning environment benefit all children in the community.
“For a child, to come to school and have a playground where everything is fixed and not broken makes them feel good. This outdoor learning environment and the adaptive playground are also open to the community after school hours,” she said.