May 15, 2016
Playground Project Not Child's Play
By Izzy Taylor
When our class heard about the renovation, we were excited. The kids had been without a playground this year and had lots of ideas for a new playground. We were sure the adults in charge would welcome our help. How else would they know what we would like?
We formed a project group. Our Renovation 101 Team started by asking our teachers to help us, and they guided us to do some research and think through exactly what it would take to improve the playground. It turns out we had some pretty specific ideas and some good reasons behind them.
For example, a majority of students on the team said they want eight swings, which is double what we have now, because that would mean less waiting during recess. Many said they would appreciate new monkey bars that are safer than our old ones. We also wanted to be sure the renovation includes lots of slides since we can never have too many. And we wanted to have equipment that the special needs kids could play on too since we don’t have that now, which can leave people out.
We decided we wanted to involve more students to think about the playground design. After we talked to the principal, we surveyed everyone in the school. We then developed models and had the whole school vote on their favorite.
When we presented the results to district officials in charge of playground designs, we told them why it is so important that we be a part of this. We said that we needed to help design the playground because we know what the students want and we should have a voice in designing it because we are going to play on it. The executive board told us they thought our plan was great.
But ever since then, it’s been hard.
We did everything we thought we were supposed to do to to help our school design a better playground. We even talked to the Superintendent and the Commissioner of Education. But last week, we got an email from our district’s support services saying we will get the same equipment as other schools.
We feel like we have been shut down. The adults sound like they want to use our ideas, but they don’t want to use them to make real changes.
Students have good ideas. But our experience trying to help build a better playground makes us wonder how much that matters.
All the time, we hear the people in charge say school is about kids.
But is it really?
The Kentucky Student Voice Team is a statewide organization of young people who are co-creating more just, democratic Kentucky schools & communities as research, policy & advocacy partners.
It was founded in 2012 at the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, an independent, nonpartisan, citizen-led organization working to improve education in Kentucky—early childhood through postsecondary. Since 2021, KSVT has been an independent organization.
This op-ed ran as part of a package with several other Student Voice Team op-eds in the Courier Journal.
Izzy is a former member of KSVT. She joined when she was in the fourth grade at Squires Elementary School in Lexington.