Midtown Raleigh News

North Raleigh school gets grant to create dream playground

A rendering of the J.W. York Elementary School playground renovation. The groundbreaking is planned for October.
A rendering of the J.W. York Elementary School playground renovation. The groundbreaking is planned for October. Courtesy of CLH Design

A North Raleigh elementary school is creating a dream playground, one that incorporates opportunities for fun, exercise and learning.

The J.W. York Elementary School PTA received a $219,700 grant from the John Rex Endowment for the playground renovation, which will include new interactive equipment, an outdoor classroom and a paved track.

“It’s definitely something that’s going to encourage students to learn and get their physical fitness at the same time,” said Keith Richardson, the principal at York.

York is a STEM school, meaning it emphasizes the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in its curriculum.

Holly Berry, the PTA president, said that one example of a feature that will encourage both play and learning is a path that will lead to the school’s track. The new path and a newly paved track will encourage fitness. But distance measurements also will be painted along the path, so that students can conduct experiments outside.

“It’s really fusing the curriculum with the outdoors,” she said.

Similarly, a garden featuring indigenous rocks will provide a space where students can play but also learn about the rocks. A grid of half-buried tires will be a place for interactive games. An art installation will be used to study weather.

One of the major goals of the renovation is to give students more opportunities for physical activity. Students already get 30 minutes of daily physical activity because of recess, but school officials hope the renovation will boost that number to 60.

Alice Reese of CLH Design said that in her plans for the playground she included a range of features to accommodate children of different ages and the various ways they like to play. That includes making sure there are spaces for active play, such as team sports, and passive play, such as make-believe games.

Reese also talked with teachers about how to make the playground most useful for them.

She said that she hopes teachers “can begin to view the outdoors as an element to use throughout the day, rather than just recess.” Even the walk from the classroom to the playground can increase the amount of physical activity a child gets each day, she said.

York hopes to break ground on the playground in October after securing city approval and to complete the project by next August.