Kent State East Liverpool Students Help Build Playground for Kids With Special Needs
Seventeen second-year students from the Occupational Therapy Assistant program at Kent State University at East Liverpool rolled up their sleeves, flexed their muscles and went to work to help build the Walnut Grove Playground, an all-inclusive recreational facility designed for those with special needs.
Located on Columbiana-Canfield Road in Canfield, the playground features universal design concepts and inclusiveness for all.
The students were on site for the first day of a two-day community build for volunteers, sponsored by the Walnut Grove organization. When the students arrived at the build site, they found a flat, empty field. By the end of the day, however, the project began to take shape, and they could visualize the finished project.
“It was like putting together a giant puzzle,” says Nina Sullivan, academic field coordinator of the Occupational Therapy Assistant program. “We were in charge of unpacking all of the pieces and parts of the playground equipment, from nuts and bolts to 15-foot sections of pipe and extremely heavy wheelchair platforms.”
After the items were unpacked, the students were tasked with fitting the piping together and carrying them to pre-dug holes on the playground in preparation for concrete to be poured the following day. Students also assembled several pieces of interactive play equipment and placed connected sections of the playground together. This included ladders, slides, ramps and sensory play areas.
The Walnut Grove is based in Canfield and was founded in 2014 as a nonprofit organization that creates barrier-free indoor and outdoor recreational facilities designed for those with special needs. According to its website, the mission of the Walnut Grove is to “provide a recreational playground where individuals of all abilities are able to learn through play and enjoy the freedom to interact with their peers.”
While the target population for this project is children with visual and/or physical impairments, the equipment is not limited to those with special needs, allowing siblings and other children chances to play, too.
The Walnut Grove defines this project as “a playground that is accessible to all; an area for kids to build confidence; a place to feel safe, accepted and independent.”