After reading an article in the local newspaper about the efforts of the City of La Grange, Texas, to install a playground visitors can enjoy regardless of ability, I contacted City Manager Shawn Raborn to discuss volunteering my time as part of the APA Ambassador program because I wanted to get input on the project from a 7th grade Special Education Class.
Raborn was very supportive. I contacted Principal Sarah Otto, who obtained permission to put me in contact with Mariella Sanchez, a 7th and 8th grade special education teacher of language arts.
A La Grange, Texas, 7th grade student works in the playground planning workshop hosted by APA Ambassador Diana Wilson. Photo courtesy Diana Wilson.
Sanchez assured me the students would be eager to give their input, so we set up a time for the program. Local college freshman Johanna Bruhn and Shawn Raborn both offered to assist me with this "Park for All" activity.
We began with a presentation about the value of play and how play not only involves physical fitness, but also stimulates the brain with problem solving techniques. We also discussed how parks and playgrounds can be learning environments as well as places for social interaction.
City Manager Raborn encouraged the students to talk about what they like in the current park system and gave an overview of the new park location and design.
La Grange elementary students post playground preferences in workshop hosted APA Ambassador Diana Wilson. Photo courtesy Diana Wilson.
I prepared a poster with precedent images, which was on display in the classroom, and each of the students was given stickers to indicate their favorite activities. Swinging, climbing, and musical instruments were among ones they chose.
Colored pencils and paper were provided, and the students were given time to draw images of what they would like to see in the new playground. The drawings students prepared were amazing in their detail; graphics and text described age-appropriate inclusive activities.
This was a very rewarding experience and I look forward to volunteering more of my time to this worthwhile project.
Top image: Ambassador Diana Wilson and La Grange City Manager Shawn Raborn lead students in park planning activity. Photo courtesy Diana Wilson.
About the Author
Diana Wilson, AICP, a landscape architect and planner, is director of planning at Burditt Consultants in Conroe, Texas.