“How would someone in a wheelchair play on the playground?”

This question spiraled our class into weeks of researching, planning and preparing. The technical name for this process is called service learning. Service learning in my mind is a kin to play based learning, with the added focus of serving others.  Service learning in a nutshell is engaging students in valuable experiential learning through service opportunities that benefit the community.

That’s the nutshell, I want to share it in action:

One day on a lunch outing to the park two of my students that live in the same neighborhood were talking about  a sweet girl who has a wheelchair that lives near them.   I overheard bits and pieces and then they came running over after coming down the slide and asked,

“Miss AshLee how would Faye play on the playground?”

So in teacher fashion my response was challenge,

“Well, girls, I wonder if you could do a bit of research for me and find out what you think she could have fun playing on at the park?”

They hurried off and at the end of our lunch date we were walking home and I asked them what they found.  They reported that everything looked to be something she would need help with.  I then asked,

“Do you think there may be other playgrounds around here that are any different?”

They looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders–but in that conversation our project was born.

We planned 3 more “fieldtrips” to put other playgrounds to the test and found that there were some that would be even harder and none that would be much fun for someone needing mobility support.

The kindergarteners then reported what they found to the preschoolers.  We all took a field trip to the playground that started it all.  As they played I asked each student to take a turn sitting out for 2 minutes.  As I sat with each student on the bench we talked about how it felt to sit on the side and how it must feel being excluded because of their mobility.  Childrens hearts are so genuine and the closer it got to that 2 minute mark you could see on their little faces it sinking in and their determination growing.   One particularly softhearted, 4 year old boy, looked up at me after sitting and talking through our time and he said,

“If someone were here in a wheelchair right now I would play with them.  I don’t want them to be alone.”

When we returned to the classroom I introduced Orem City’s project to build the All Together Playground.  They were so excited!  Even before I could suggest anything they were asking,

“Can we help build it?”

“I have a shovel!”

“My dad is really good at building things!”

 

I told them what Orem City needs right now is for people to raise money to help buy the parts to the playground and they were willing right then and there to empty every penny bank owned.

Over the course of a few more brainstorming sessions we decided to help in these four ways:

No. 1 A Lemonade Stand…I knew someone who could help us with the stand;)

No. 2 Write letters to ask others to help.

No. 3 Sell their artwork.

No. 4 Invite their families to get involved.

We have been busy at work and in full production.  The amazing thing to me is that when a child is writing words on a sign to tell others about something super important to them, all the sudden 20 minutes fly by and everyone is still on task.  When figuring out our cost and pricing, addition and subtraction come so much more naturally in context.  But above the academics, organizational, and teamwork skills strengthened I hope they fortified those golden hearts, and that they will always remember how much fun and fulfilling service can be.

Their hearts ARE golden.  There is never a thought for themselves and so much excitement to meet our goal.  I have said it before, but, I have the best job in the whole world.

And that leaves us with just one more question,

How can you help?

If you want to donate you can go to alltogetherplayground.com to donate directly or if you would like to help Miss AshLee’s class make their goal we are collecting donations through PAY PAL at 2pennyblue@gmail.com until May 6th.

THANK YOU. THANK YOU.  THANK YOU.