In 2010, Kary Ann Nixon, a special education teacher at Pembroke Elementary, started a fund raising campaign for new play equipment in the courtyard. Linda Hayes, the school’s Principal, fully supported the efforts. After a number of meetings and design charrettes with school faculty and staff, landscape architects at Painted Fern conceptualized a plan that consisted of inspired play features, gardening areas, a water fountain, and space for creating art outdoors. All of the equipment was researched and selected based on handicap accessibility for the diverse population of special needs students at Pembroke.
Once the conceptual plan was finished and approved by the principal and staff at Pembroke, site design firm, WPL, was responsible for turning an idea into a reality by creating design documents from design development through to construction.
The finished product inside Pembroke Elementary School’s interior courtyard takes accessible play to an entirely new level. Not just for play, the space is now a setting where children are encouraged to create, explore, and grow. The courtyard playground has been named “Bodies In Motion Learning Park”.
The renovated courtyard is essentially rectangular with three of the corners containing rooms for gardening, art, and basketball. At the heart of the space are a collection of fixed play structures, all uniquely designed to be accessible, with cushioned play surfacing below. A meandering concrete sidewalk encircles the space where children enjoy moving with their walkers, wheelchairs, bikes and bigwheels. Benches line the sidewalk, creating an inviting place to relax or supervise the play activity. The space is lushly planted with shrubs to soften the walls and trees to provide shade in the summer. Two large tensile shade systems afford ample shade over the fixed play equipment, and smaller tensile shades are located over the basketball and art spaces.