Garrison School Playground Expands

By Benjamin Cox on October 7, 2023 at 7:27am

Four Rivers and the Garrison School is wrapping up a project to bring more outdoor activity to students.

Executive Director Tracy Fair says that when she began at the school in 2020, talks were already underway of expanding the school’s playground to the north of the building. The school was currently completing the wing for its Life Skills Program. She says no funding had been set aside yet to expand the playground but discussions had begun: “I started in the summer of 2020 and the wing for the Life Skills program was underway. Leaders of the school had done a rough plan for the playground, talking to some different companies, thinking about what kind of equipment that could be brought into help and for some of those kids to be able to use. Also, when I started, the school started receiving ESSER funds and then, we won the Community Partnership grant. We believed during discussions that we could tie into both of those funding options by saying the playground would increase time for the kids to gain social-emotional learning. We really talked about being out here allowing students to have more supervised interactions to help with those social skills.”

The combination of the grant and the ESSER funding paid for just under a half million dollars to expand the playground nearly threefold. Students at Garrison now have a 7-place swing set, an accessible merry-go-round, a modern seesaw, a 3-panel sensory wall, drop shot basketball, interactive table tennis, and a music instrument zone to play on.

Fair says it will help with the school meeting the new 30-minute play requirement by the State Board of Education.

Fair says it will also further the school’s desire to provide more social-emotional development and learning for students away from the pressures of a traditional classroom: “This is great for good social-emotional learning. We have a couple of social workers on staff. We have talked about having them maybe supervise some activities out here if there is a particular goal for a student – maybe one who maybe needs help initiating play with another peer. This addition to the school and the playground really ties into our desire to really try to increase the social-emotional support for the students. We feel like that is something that’s just not been supported a whole lot or not enough in the past. It’s something that we would like to see more of moving forward.”

Fair says with expanded green space behind the school, there is still the ability to add on in the future if funding becomes available. For now, she says that the playground, which is fenced in, also has space beyond the fence for supervised physical activities, especially for older students. She says an added bonus is that many pieces of the new playground equipment are accessible for students who have limited physical capabilities. She says that it offers them a more inclusive environment to again help them open up to their peers away from the classroom environment.