Loyola students ask Parks and Rec for inclusive playground on campus

Courtesy of Olenka Villarreal
Loyola School third-graders are advocating for an inclusive playground like Magical Bridge in Palo Alto, left. The students attended a Parks and Recreation Commission meeting April 11 to lobby for one, even though they were on spring break.

Although it was spring break, two Loyola School teachers and seven third-graders attended the Los Altos Parks and Recreation Commission meeting April 11 to lobby for an inclusive playground.

The students – accompanied at the meeting by third-grade teacher Tracy Grinberg and STEM instructional support teacher Grace Choi – first raised the idea of an inclusive playground March 14 when Los Altos Mayor Jean Mordo visited their class. Mordo recommended that they speak to the Parks and Recreation Commission. So they did, even though the commission meeting was scheduled during their vacation.

They sacrificed their break time for a cause they deemed worthy – a thoughtfully designed playground that provides a safe place for children of all ages and abilities to play together.

The third-graders took turns speaking at the meeting.

Hannah Choi explained that the idea of an inclusive playground came up when she and her classmates worked on a challenge project aimed at improving their school for everyone.

“The biggest problem that we noticed was that our school playground is not accessible to all of our students,” she said.

To better understand the problem, Beckett White said he and his classmates consulted with school staff and students.

“We interviewed our principal Mrs. Attell, the special-education teacher, the occupational therapist and some students that don’t have access to our playground,” Beckett said.

The next step was to research inclusive playgrounds, according to student Griffin Vegas.

“We found out that there is an amazing accessible and inclusive playground in our neighboring community of Palo Alto. This playground is called Magical Bridge Playground,” he said.

After the discovery, third-grader Joyce Liu said her class realized that an inclusive playground would be good not just for their school, but also for the community as a whole.

“We invited Mr. Mordo, the mayor of Los Altos, to come and talk to our class about local government as well as how we could incorporate an inclusive playground in our community,” Joyce said.

Student Aya Agrawal added that the project is important to Loyola “because we have friends in school that cannot access our playground, and we want to make sure they know that we notice and care about them.”

Aya’s classmate Chet Kinzelberg noted that Los Altos doesn’t have a play spot for children with visual and sensory impairments, autism and physical limitations.

“An inclusive playground will help bring this community together,” Chet said.

Another third-grader, Tessa Kelly, referred to the Los Altos Recreation and Community Services Department website while making a closing statement. The website states that among the department’s goals is to “foster health and well-being through physical activity for all ages and abilities.”

“What better way to accomplish this goal than with an inclusive playground that encourages physical activity for all ages?” Tessa asked. “We want to live in a community where our differences don’t limit our ability to play together.”

After the third-graders’ speeches, Olenka Villarreal, founder of Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto, explained to commissioners how an inclusive playground would serve people of all abilities.

In the meantime, Mordo was in Maui but sent Villarreal an email, which she later shared with the Town Crier.

“I was quite impressed with the kids (when visiting Loyola),” Mordo wrote. “I am aware of Magical Bridge, and would love to have MB collaborate with the city to bring a playground in Los Altos.”

Parks and Recreation Commissioners put the students’ request for an inclusive playground in their work plan to investigate further, but they haven’t made it a future meeting agenda item.

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