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“Playground With A Purpose,” a project by seniors Caleb Smith, Peniel Ibe, Truman McGee, Rachel Logan-Wood and George Lowring, will expand the recreational opportunities available to children with special needs

Earlhamites' inclusive playground project selected for $50K matching grant

July 28, 2017

A team of Earlhamites have been selected by the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority to receive a $50,000 matching grant to complete its vision for a first-of-its-kind playground in Richmond.

“Playground With A Purpose” is a project by Caleb Smith, Peniel Ibe, Truman McGee, Rachel Logan-Wood and Regan Lowring, who graduated in May with Environmental Studies degrees. The project is designed to appeal to children with all abilities, including features that are purpose-built for children with special needs and promote sensory development.

“We have met with so many people in the community who have told us that there is a clear need for a project of this magnitude,” says Smith. “This has been the culmination of everything I have learned at Earlham. From making presentations, to utilizing knowledge from my science and economics classes, to bringing people together to accomplish a shared goal, this has been an incredibly rewarding experience.”

In partnership with Richmond’s Department of Parks and Recreation, the team had a groundbreaking ceremony for the complex at Clear Creek Park, the day before commencement. The $50,000 matching grant from the IHCDA is the latest show of support for the students’ work and adds to the already committed funds raised for the project, which is expected to be completed by October.

YOU CAN HELP: Contributions made to Playground With A Purpose will be matched by the IHCDA through August 31,2017. Donate here

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will feature traditional playground equipment like an inclusive swing and slides along with movable sensory panels and dome-like structures for children seeking a break from play. The playground will also be fenced to promote children’s safety.

“We have spent a lot of time researching effective designs for sensory playgrounds,” Logan-Wood says. “Inclusivity is very important to us. It’s just not for kids with autism or sensory disabilities; it’s for all children including those with motor disabilities or other physical disabilities.” 

Playground 4The project was launched last September 2016 after the team considered community-based projects that could fulfill the requirements of the Environmental Studies Capstone project. Richmond Parks Superintendent Denise Retz offered them an attraction option. 

“This was important to me as a potential project because we do have this need within our community that we have not met as a parks system,” Retz says. “We have given them a lot of free reign to do what they like in design and fundraising and all aspects of the project. They’re doing a wonderful job.”

This community-based initiative is yet another example of the kinds of projects that are encouraged by a major initiative called EPIC, which enables students to work on real projects with real consequences at a local, regional and global level.

“This is much more than just a playground,” says Jay Roberts, Earlham associate vice president of academic affairs. “These students are developing a powerful set of knowledge, skills and abilities while engaging in cross-disciplinary work in child development, autism, and special education that will help the community with a demonstrated need.”

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Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success. Earlham is one of only 40 national liberal arts colleges ranked among U.S. News and World Reports' "Great Schools at a Great Price."

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and zimmebr@earlham.edu.

 

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