September 12, 2012
Every child deserves a safe place to play where they can develop their physical well-being and socialization skills while fostering their creativity and imagination. To commemorate the National Day of Service and Remembrance, AmeriCorps members from the YWCA Central Alabama recently refreshed the YW's downtown outdoor play space for the homeless and at-risk children participating in its child care program.
The new playground was constructed last year when AmeriCorps members worked alongside volunteers from Birmingham-Southern College (BSC) and YouthServe to remove all hard-surface structures from the play area, replacing them with softer surfaces that provide a more play-friendly space. The 20 year-old masonry castle and other hard-surface structures were replaced with more natural materials, designed to expose the children to nature.
"Last year, the volunteers helped us create the infrastructure of the playground," said Delyne Hicks, Senior Director of Child Care Services. "This year we were able to customize and enhance the playground to fit the needs of our children."
After observing one year of successful play, the child care staff decided to focus on the areas that the children have expressed an interest in by adding new elements to the play area that will promote the children's curiosity, facilitate social interactions and provide opportunities to experiment with new ideas.
"We've paid close attention to the way our children played and added elements that support their dramatizations. For example, the children were playing school and a chalkboard was added to augment their play."
AmeriCorps members also planted flowers, fruit-bearing trees, plants and vegetables and constructed a dry riverbed to give the children a hands-on experience with nature.
"The new elements create a sense of wonder among the young and old alike. They extend an invitation for children to come explore nature and play in a way that they never have before," said Hicks.
The YWCA would like to extend a very special thank you to our 30 AmeriCorps members and YW staff who helped make this playground rebuild possible. Thanks to their support, the unique children we serve will be able to participate in one of the most important childhood experiences - play.
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