Mary Honeywell Inclusive Play Yard
About This Idea:
Posted by: Helen Crawford
Organization: Mary Honeywell Elementary School
Location: 54 Kennevale Dr, Nepean, ON K2J3B2
Idea Created: September 28, 2011
"Everything I needed to know I learnt in Kindergarten".
Mary Honeywell Elementary school is located in the Ottawa suburb of Barrhaven and is home to over 500 students. Mary Honeywell is also home to a specialized autism unit of 18 students who have very diverse and specialized needs.
OUR DREAM: Both our kindergarten and autism students do not currently have a safe and accessible play yard in which to play. Our dream is to put one in place that meets all of their unique needs as well as addresses the safety factors when dealing with such young children and children on the autism spectrum.
Since we are developing a yard from scratch we have a unique opportunity to create an area that is inclusive but Autism-Spectrum friendly. Indeed, outdoor play can be used to support the development of social and communication skills. Our dream is to provide a play area that includes equipment that focuses on sensory stimulation such as:
- equipment with varied textures for tactile stimulation
- ride on toys for soothing motion
- wall games such as mazes for visual and tactile stimulation.
We also hope to make this dynamic play area a safe one to all who use it. "Health Canada estimates that about 28,500 children under the age of 15 are treated in hospital emergency rooms annually, for injuries related to playground equipment. Falls, usually to the ground surface below equipment, account for approximately 75% of all playground-related injuries". (Source: health Canada/Safe Kids Canada, 2000). In order to minimize the risks associated with falls we plan to equip our new play yard with a poured rubber safety surface that protects children from falls. This surface will also provide additional safety as it keeps the areas clean and dry, free from weeds and buried debris such as broken glass.
We also hope to put in a "Quiet Zone" with benches grouped in a circle to encourage quiet social interaction. This area would also allow children, for the whom the rigors of daily playground activity can be overwhelming, the opportunity to self-regulate giving them a place to remove themselves from stressful situations and allow them to return to play once they are ready. This Quiet Zone will also greatly benefit our autism students by allowing them to be apart from the noise and excitement of the main play area, but to still be outdoors with their class
These things can be applied to every young child, not only those limited to the spectrum and all children will benefit from a yard that is planned with learning as well as fun in mind.
HISTORY: The old Kindergarten play structure was an older wooden model, and was inspected by the OCDSB in the Spring of 2010 and was deemed unsafe. That meant the structure would be removed sometime over the summer; and its removal is now a huge loss, not only to our Kindergarten and Autism students who use this yard everyday, but also the community as a whole. The fenced in area is popular with many day care providers not only for its safety but also because it is heavily shaded, so it doesn't get too hot for little ones in the summer.
Without this playstructure, kindergarten and autism students came to school in September, many for the first time, and were faced with an empty yard without any playstructure for them to play on, improve their gross motor skills, enhance their physical fitness and benefit from a safe and stimulating play yard. It has been recognized that the social skills that children gain while at play on the school yard are life skills that they carry with them into adulthood. Research has also shown that, outside of the child's home, a playground is the most important environment for a child, and that the free and spontaneous play that occurs there is one of the most beneficial types of play!
WHY WE NEED THIS PLAY AREA: A research paper by Duerr Evaluation Resources found that "Playgrounds provide crucial and vital opportunities for children to play. There is substantial research showing the clear link between play and brain development, motor-skills, and social capabilities. All learning—emotional, social, motor and cognitive—is accelerated, facilitated, and fueled by the pleasure of play. Playgrounds that promote different types of play are vital for a child’s cognitive, emotional, physical, and social development "
Now the front of our school is empty and we are loooking to the Aviva Community fund to help us rebuild our kindergarten play yard not only for the benefit of our kindergarten and autism students, but for our community as a whole who use this yard on a daily basis.
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