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Project Playground Safe & accessible

Introduction

ELAMS (Expeditionary Learning Academy at Moylan School) is an EL Education (formerly Expeditionary Learning) school that provides opportunities for students to engage in authentic, real-world experiences. Project Playground is a 10-week expedition in which 69 second grade students become experts on the topic of safe and accessible playgrounds.

Students believe in diversity and inclusion. Students with physical disabilities are an essential part of our crew (school community). Second graders spend time getting to know their friends with physical disabilities. They attend essentials (art, physical education and music) together and share special occasions with them.

They spent a very special day together at an all accessible playground called Jonathan's Dream. This experience, along with reading about children who made a difference, inspired them to research equipment for their playground.

Inspiration

After reading about children who made a difference in other peoples' lives, students were inspired! Each year, second graders read and study about children who have made a difference in their community, with projects such as Alex’s Lemonade Stand. In their second case study, students learn about how all humans are equal in value and have the right to play. Two years ago, students successfully lobbied the district’s construction manager to have a very dangerous wall “come tumbling down” from the middle of the playground's courtyard. Last year, students were inspired to continue the work when they saw their friends being wheeled around in their wheelchairs, unable to play on the playground. Students presented their ideas about building an accessible playground to a group of key stakeholders who pledged to help make this project a reality.

During the 2017-2018 school year, second graders continued their "fight" and wrote letters to the mayor and governor to make them aware of our project. They took their cause to the community during Better World Day and received their first monetary contribution to Project Playground.

Mayor Bronin of Hartford inspired by the students who wrote him letters.
Students sat on the space where the wall used to be and wrote what they noticed and wondered about our present playground to include in their letters.

Mastery of Skills and Content

"I think we should have our own lemonade stand to raise money for our playground." -Jose

Students were immersed in learning by reading in-depth articles about how children can make a difference. They were inspired to make a difference in their own community. Students participated in field work, which included exploring an accessible playground, and then researched playground equipment. They learned about different types of accessible playground equipment and witnessed first-hand how it functioned and the joy of all children playing together. Students used the writing process to publish persuasive letters to make the community aware of the need and support for an accessible playground.

Character

Dear Mayor....

Students demonstrated core values by following the "Compass for Learners" throughout the Project Playground expedition. Students used their voices to inform others about the importance of diversity and inclusion, an EL design principle. Students were not only inspired by other children, they inspired a child in our community to contribute by creating a website, www.elamsprojectplayground.org to make others aware of our cause.

Students performed a skit on Better World Day. #betterworldday

Both diversity and inclusion increase the richness of ideas, creative power, problem-solving ability, and respect for others. In EL Education schools, students investigate and value their different histories and talents as well as those of other communities and cultures. Schools and learning groups are heterogeneous.

Craftsmanship

Through the writing process, students used peer and adult feedback to improve their writing. They wrote multiple drafts using a student-created criteria list and a rubric to guide the students towards precision. The students read their final product during our community meeting when the entire school population gets together to celebrate learning. The letters will be sent to community members and stakeholders.

Incorporating the Arts

During Art class, a contest was held for a drawing of an accessible playground to be the cover of a brochure for Better World Day and publicity for awareness and fundraising. In addition, in the classroom, students were planning an accessible playground using a blueprint of our present playground. Students used a criteria list to create a playground choosing their own accessible and non-accessible playground equipment.

During Art class, a contest was held for a drawing of an accessible playground to be the cover of a brochure for Better World Day and publicity for awareness and fundraising.

Final Thoughts

In this, our third year, Project Playground has really taken flight! It has touched more people this year than previous years. This authentic project did not only inspire our second graders, but it also inspired family members, community members in and outside of our neighborhood, and other children. We have business leaders who were touched by our childrens' concern and passion for the need of a playground for all. These leaders are helping with connections and fundraising. One leader told this story to a 12 year old who was so inspired, that he wanted to help and he is creating a web site for us. This website will help promote our project and provide access for people to make donations. This year, our second graders spent more time with their friends in wheelchairs and were truly able to understand how people are different and the same. We ALL love to play on a playground together. Our students refer to inclusive play as "a dream come true".

"Fairness is giving each person what they need to succeed." -Ms. Sherriffs, Special Education Teacher of students with multi disabilities

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