New play area to be greener, safer for kids

June 29, 2009

by Victoria Perkins

The Early Childhood Education Center plans to enlist the help of architecture students to build a safer, more eco-friendly playground by the beginning of Fall Quarter 2009.

Laura Chestnut, director of the Early Childhood Education Center, said she has high hopes for the project.

“I want the little children to have safe equipment to play on, but also to learn more about nature,” Chestnut said.

She said the new playground is intended to be a “green space.” This means that the features of the playground will come from and be built into the earth.

Chestnut said she believes it will not only help the children learn about nature, but it will also be safer for them.

“The red dome equipment we have out there is inappropriate and unsafe,” Chestnut said.

Katie Seymore, a graduate student who works at the Early Childhood Education Center, said she agrees that the playground upgrade is important.

“The current playground is not developmentally appropriate for the age group of children that attend the Early Childhood Education Center,” Seymore said.

She said the playground is an important aspect of the Early Childhood Education Center.

“Play and exercise are crucial to the development of a child,” Seymore said. “Children need to run, jump and play every day,” she said. “The playground is just one area that can help further the development of the motor skills.”

Due to the upcoming budget cuts, Chestnut said she is working mainly with donated money and volunteer work.

She said she hopes the completion of the project will prove that big budgets are not necessary.

“We want future teachers to know the very best and the very safest of things that are out there,” Chestnut said. “I want them to be able to see that there’s budget cuts everywhere and that you don’t have to have $200,000 or a quarter of a million dollars to start a playground.”

One of the volunteers on the project is Robert Brooks, an assistant professor of architecture, who is drawing the plans for the new playground.

Brooks said the limited budget is something the department has had to work around, but it has not hindered the project.

“In a normal scenario, the budget that Mrs. Chestnut has would be enough to cover about half of the design fees,” Brooks said. “So it’s incredibly tight, and we have to be extremely imaginative.”

He said he hopes the playground will provide the children with a new and interesting environment.

“What I’d like to achieve is to create an atmosphere that is safe, and fun and exciting without a lot of money,” Brooks said.

Chestnut said the project is still in the design and development stage, but she hopes to get underway in the next few weeks.