For Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month in March, Soliant, one of the nation’s largest healthcare staffing companies, has announced that Valley View Community School Playground in Santa Clarita is one of the 10 best inclusive school playgrounds in the United States.
Playgrounds located across the country were reviewed based on factors that include the utilization of inclusive playground design core principles, quantity and quality of play features offered and any unique inspirations or stories behind the development, funding, or name of the playground.
The selected playgrounds go beyond minimum accessibility to offer play experiences for a wide variety of needs, for example, by offering braille features for students who are visually impaired and sensory-rich structures for students with developmental disabilities.
“Join us in applauding the education systems, organizations, companies, and communities who played a role in the development of these playgrounds,” said Soliant Senior Vice President of Education Lesley Slaughter. “We praise their commitment to ensuring all students—children of various abilities, ages, and backgrounds—have an equal opportunity to play, learn, and develop alongside one another.”
Slaughter said she was surprised at the number and variety of inclusive playgrounds available throughout the United States.
“We were absolutely blown away at the number and variety of inclusive playgrounds in schools nationwide, so much so that it felt nearly impossible to pick just 10,” Slaughter said. “We are grateful for this opportunity to spotlight these playgrounds with incredible design and stories. Additionally, we extend our acclamation to the school educators and support staff who help push inclusivity further into education systems and continuously work to benefit the experience for all children—regardless of abilities.”
The 10 inclusive playgrounds chosen include:
1. Mr. Nick’s Inclusive Playground | Springfield, Mo.
2. C. P. Swagger Shipyard | Lambertville, Mich.
3. Owen’s Playground for Kids of All Abilities | Downers Grove, Ill.
4. Woodland Hills Elementary School Playground | Kingwood, Texas.
5. The Guild School | Concord, Mass.
6. Bloomingdale Inclusive Park and Playground | New York, N.Y.
7. The Valley View Community School Playground | Santa Clarita, Calif.
8. Toomer Elementary School Playground | Atlanta, Ga.
9. The Three Rivers Playground | Pasco, Wash.
10. Friendship Learning Center Playground | North Fond Du Lac, Wisc.
The Valley View Community School Playground in Santa Clarita was the first inclusive playground to be introduced as part of a Sulphur Springs Union School District initiative to implement all-inclusive playgrounds across school campuses, according to the SSUSD website.
The second inclusive playground was unveiled at Sulphur Springs Elementary in 2019 and the third and fourth playgrounds were unveiled at Fair Oaks Ranch Community School in 2021.
The sea-themed inclusive playground at Valley View Community School was designed to meet the needs of the whole child with social, sensory, physical, cognitive and communication needs.
According to a news release from playground equipment company Sun Country Playgrounds, the blue and green space prioritizes sound, sight and touch so that a variety of senses can be engaged without creating an overwhelming space, such as a smooth-moving boat and noise-making musical notes. There are accessibility touchpoints like wheelchair-accessible ramps and harnessed swings, so no part of the playground feels inaccessible. The playground has been incorporated into special education curriculum and occupational therapy sessions.
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