Hearts of Fun Playground opens for accessible fun

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Courtesy of Amber Slocum

The final pieces of equipment were recently installed to the Hearts of Fun Playground Project.

Traditional playground equipment is inaccessible to students with motor issues and other physical challenges, leaving behind many children during playtime. The Ingham Intermediate School District’s Heartwood School in Mason is combatting this problem with a playground that is fully accessible to all children. After almost 10 years of work, the Hearts of Fun Playground has been completed.

Approximately $90,000 was raised through various fundraisers, events and grants to provide a playground accessible to all students, including those with physical or cognitive challenges. Fundraisers included two 5k Walk/Run/Roll events, two golf outings, and the sale of engraved bricks to outline the playground. Help also came from Dean Transportation, The Community Foundation, individuals and families.

Teacher Amber Slocum said, “Our playground offers rubberized surfacing, which is kind of like a bungee ground that the kids can travel across without running into wood chips or grass that might be uneven. It also has adaptive seating, and the main structure has a ramp that’s fully accessible all the way from the bottom.”

The ramp makes the equipment wheelchair accessible, and  includes sensory equipment on each level of the structure.

A place for the whole community

“We really wanted it to be something that was for the community, too, not just for Heartwood students but the people of Mason,” said Principal Alexis Adams. “It was really supposed to be encompassing for our younger population, but we’ve found that even our older kids have been enjoying it.”

The playground incorporates universal design principles, which creates an environment that can be understood and accessed by all people. According to a written testimonial by Heartwood occupational therapist Tricia Carroll, this helps students gain independence through play and movement, and that as we move towards a more integrative society, any other design will be a way of the past. 

The playground will be available for community use after school hours, depending on COVID-19 restrictions. Check the Ingham Intermediate School District’s website for information.

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