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Education, nutrition highlights new playground

26 May 2011 | Pamela Jackson

The newly renovated playground at the Child Development Center here encourages children to play with a purpose - fun and education.

The sounds of laughter, screaming and excited children filled the air as they came running from the building to their various age-appropriate playground areas.

The new playground, which opened on April 15, after nearly six months of renovation, is divided into separate sections based on different age groups: Infant, Pre-toddler, Toddler, Pre-School, Pre-Kindergarten and After School.

“We wanted to make sure first and foremost the playground is safe for the children, but just as important is the opportunity to use their gross and fine motor skills at all age levels,” said Dorothy Bryant, director, CDC, Marine Corps Community Services, MCLB Albany.

Bryant said every aspect was taken into consideration during the design process to make it more interesting and enjoyable for the children.

The playground is visually stimulating and equipped with a cushioned ground surface, artificial grass, fruit and vegetable garden, flower garden, swing sets, covered picnic tables, water sprinklers, areas for climbing, sliding, bike riding, obstacles, mushroom seating, a reading box, musical instruments and most popular, the rock.

Bryant said the newly renovated playground and equipment isn’t just about fun, but has an educational component in the areas of science, art and much more, including health and wellness.

“The children not only get to plant and water their gardens, but will eventually eat the food items they grow. This goes along with their science lessons in the classrooms and we also believe a healthy child does better in school,” she said. “We focus on the whole child and the children love it.”

Katie Roberts, Pre-K teacher, CDC, said the sandbox has a dinosaur at the bottom of it that the kids love to dig through the dirt to find, which is used as part of the science curriculum.

“It is a discovery object, which allows boys and girls of all ages to use their hands and different types of tools to excavate and look for things in the sand,” she said. “We also have different types of dump trucks, semi-trucks and construction vehicles that teach them a social studies standard of learning about different types of jobs in the world and building things.”

Roberts said there is also a fountain inside the rock tower so the sand can get wet, which allows children to mold it and build things with it.

"When focusing on the math standards, we bring our measuring cups out to measure how many uses of sand are in the cup. They can also pretend to bake and make cakes and other things with the molded sand,” she said. “This is great for girls and boys of all age groups because sand has different textures, which meets the sensory standards requirement in pre-k. They are able to feel different textures in the sand such as smooth, marble and rock using the water, which changes the way it feels.”

Several of the children were asked what their favorite parts of the pre-k playground were and most were in agreement that the ‘rock’ was their favorite, plus a few other areas.

Matthew Hardwick, 4, said it was very hot outside, but his favorite item on the playground is the sandbox because he liked playing with the trucks and looking for the dinosaur.

I like to jump and play on the swing with my friends. When the plants grow up, I want to eat them and the slide is really fun too,” said Eriyanna Thomas, 3.

Among the most vocal and excited was Jack Drew, 4, who said he likes to jump on the toys and play with the music and other games with his friends, but his favorite is the rock.

Samantha Godwin, 4, said she loved the rock because she liked to climb and jump off of it onto the soft ground and really likes planting the flowers with her friends.

Joanne Prince, program assistant, CDC, said this is her 25th year working there and she is still enthusiastic about watching the children learn.

They come to us as empty slates and when they leave, they are budding flowers,” she said. “This is a state-of-the-art playground, which has evolved during my tenure here from a swing and sliding board to what is seen here now. The artificial turf is wonderful because the parents do not have to worry about grass stains as the children roll, jump and express themselves while playing.”

Dick French, director, Marine Corps Community Services, noted the nearly $5000,000 project was paid for with non-appropriated funds, meaning no tax dollars were used.

“There is a lot of new equipment that the former playground did not have and it was built with safety in mind for the little ones,” he said. “The fail safe ground covering offers an extra layer of safety because if the children jump or fall off the equipment, the thick cushioning allows them to bounce back.”

Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany