New Inclusive Playground Gains National Attention

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Alyssa Marino, a producer for USA Today’s Humankind, films Fred A. Toomer Elementary School kindergarten student Bowie Danner and her classmates on the school’s new inclusive playground.

Word is spreading fast about the new inclusive playground at Fred A. Toomer Elementary School

The unique activity space makes it possible for students with special needs or mobility issues to play alongside their able-bodied classmates. It has already been featured in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and soon it will grace the pages of USA Today’s online section, Humankind, which features uplifting stories about kindness and the human spirit. A short video feature on the playground is already posted on the Humankind Facebook page.

USA Today online producers Alyssa Marino and Sheeka Sanahori visited Toomer to film and interview students and kindergarten teacher Emily Max, who brought the playground to Toomer. Max was one of six nationwide winners of the Farmers Insurance® Dream Big Teacher Challenge in 2015. Max began thinking about an inclusive space when she noticed that the school’s large playground was not completely accessible to all of the students at Toomer. For example, the area’s floor of soft wood chips made it extremely difficult for students with wheelchairs or other mobility issues to move around freely.

Now Max’s vision of more interactivity among all students has become a reality and is garnering a lot of attention.

“One of our co-workers heard about the story on [National Public Radio], and we thought it would be perfect for Humankind,” Sanahori said. Her post on the Humankind Facebook page had more than 5,400 views by Tuesday afternoon. “We focus on positive, uplifting stories, and this certainly is one.”

Look for the full feature on the Toomer playground to be posted on USA Today’s Humankind in about two weeks.

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