Hewitt News

First Graders Study Playground Accessibility
Sarah Luposello, Lower School Curriculum Coordinator

Throughout the mid-winter and into the early spring, first graders took a deep dive into understanding what inclusivity truly means. To begin, they learned about various disability rights advocates and athletes such as Kitty Lund, a renowned ballerina who uses her wheelchair to dance. With guidance from their teachers, the students developed questions about the world around them, such as, “What might people with different physical abilities need to access certain places?” First graders then took their questions to Central Park, where they carefully considered what adjustments might need to be made to create playgrounds that were more accessible for all. With fresh ideas in mind, they returned to the classroom to ideate and sketch based on the observations they made during their field research. 

Drawing on principles of STEM and design thinking, and using materials such as recycled cardboard, masking tape, and pipe cleaners, first grade engineers created scaled versions of common playground equipment that they had reimagined to accommodate people of all abilities. Some of their ideas included wheelchair-accessible slides with guardrails and larger swings so people could sit with others if they needed assistance. At the end of their unit, the students held a showcase for members of the lower school community to learn more about their innovative ideas for more inclusive playground designs.

Two students sit on the rug cutting cardboard and yellow paper.

First grade engineers use materials such as recycled cardboard, masking tape, and pipe cleaners to build models of accessible playground equipment

A student builds a swingset out of cardboard and pink pipe cleaners.

Students use their observations from Central Park to create playground designs that can accommodate people with different physical abilities

A student wears a mask and builds using green paper and cardboard.

First graders rely on principles of design thinking to understand their user, develop innovative solutions, and build prototypes

Students and teachers walk around a classroom looking at the various student playground models on display.

After building their models, students host a showcase to educate the lower school community about issues of accessibility

A student sits at a desk showing off her playground model to two classmates.

The students were excited to learn about each other’s unique ideas for inclusive swings, slides, and monkey bars

A group of students walk around their classmates' desks looking at their playground models.

First graders answer questions about how their field research inspired their designs 

Students show off their playground models to classmates and teachers.

And demonstrate their equipment designs for teachers and peers 

Pairs of students pose in front of their model playgrounds and look proudly at the camera.

By the end of their unit, first graders developed a deeper understanding of what inclusivity truly means