Traditional playgrounds aren’t ideal for 8-year-old Moriah Armstrong, who is visually- and hearing-impaired.
The new playground at Lead Mine Elementary School in North Raleigh, where Moriah is a second-grader, was designed for students with disabilities. On Wednesday, he banged excitedly on a xylophone, gently touched knobs and switches and tapped a set of brightly colored metal tubes.
“We’re really excited about this new playground,” said Mark Armstrong, Moriah’s father. “We’ve learned that with children like Moriah, it’s hard to tire them out. He loves to feel and touch.”
The school spent more than three years raising money with the help of local businesses, community volunteers and the Wake County school system. Initially, the goal was to raise $67,000, but the playground ended up costing about $71,000, said principal Aaron Marcin.
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After Marcin cut a ribbon on Wednesday to celebrate the new playground, students with special needs quickly ditched their walkers and wheelchairs to try out the swings, which are wide and feature high backs and seat belts.
The playground also features a basketball hoop, planters with flowers that children can smell and a stretch of grass for free play. Students can use paint brushes or wooden sticks to tap tubes that hang from strings like wind chimes. There are plastic containers, a light switch, pieces of pipe and metal knobs nailed to a slatted wooden structure.
“The most amazing part of the day was watching the kids come out with their families and with their parents and engage in all of the play activities that have been designed especially for them,” Marcin said.
Carol Holden, a former special-education teacher at Lead Mine, helped come up with the idea for the playground project and presented it to the school’s PTA. Holden now teaches at Zebulon Middle School, but she returned to Lead Mine on Wednesday for the celebration.
“I love it, and the kids love it,” Holden said. “It turned out just like I imagined it. I’m so happy to see the kids playing on it.”
Last year, more than 10 percent of the school’s population of about 500 students were in the special-education program. The interactive playground is part of the school’s plan to include students with special needs in all parts of the school community.
At the start of this school year, Lead Mine became the first public school in North Carolina to create a blended classroom to focus on children who are both blind and deaf. Three students, including Moriah, were accepted into the program.
Armstrong, Moriah’s father, praised the school’s emphasis on inclusion.
“It’s really good for regular kids to know the value that special-ed kids can bring to our daily lives,” Armstrong said.
Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; @madisoniszler