Boundless Energy Playground fits Carver preschoolers’ special needs

20 GW Carver ribbon applause kid

A preschooler in the G.W.Carver Center’s T.O.T.S. (Transitioning Our Toddlers to School) program shows his excitement at the dedication of new playground equipment and other amenities. Dedication participants, from left: Noel Lenhart, T.O.T.S. teacher; Loretta Ewell, T.O.T.S. preschool program coordinator; Homer Coats and Melissa Rizer of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation, and Carver Education Center Principal Dr. Char Hopkins.

 FRANKFORD – Preschoolers at Indian River School District’s G. W. Carver Educational Center now have added incentive to go outdoors for recess.

Swing sets, playhouses, slides, water and sand tables, soccer goals, basketball hoops and other developmentally appropriate equipment in the Boundless Energy Playground await young children with special needs in the center’s T.O.T.S. (Transitioning Our Toddlers to School) program.

20 GW Carver boundless energy playground 1

Push/pull toys, wheelbarrows and little peddle cars are also found in the playground, a rectangular area that also features a structure with picnic tables for outdoor activities, crafts and learning.

“Now we have developmentally appropriate equipment that is geared to their age and things that they can do,” said Loretta Ewell, T.O.T.S. preschool program coordinator.

A $5,000 Carl M. Freeman Foundation grant provided the majority of equipment, toys and landscaping of the area, which previously was dirt, grass and a drain.

Carl M. Freeman Foundation representatives Homer Coats and Melissa Rizer attended the Jan. 19 dedication.

“This is just incredible,” said Mr. Coats. “I am in awe of this.”

About nine months in the works, the project was completed in December before the winter holiday break much to the delight of center’s approximately 60 pupils ages 3 and 4.

“They absolutely love it,” said T.O.T.S. teacher Noel Lenhart, who authored the grant for Freeman Foundation funding. “We were able to get out there because weather was so mild.”

T.O.T.S. serves preschool toddlers through Early Childhood Special Education, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Speech Therapy programs.

20 GW Carver TOTS playground equip 2

Existing playground equipment at the Carver Center – previously an elementary school – is larger for children of elementary age.

Plans are for the Boundless Energy Playground to be utilized a daily basis, whenever possible.

“We try and get them out at least 30 minutes a day, depending on the weather; as long as it’s above freezing with no precipitation,” Ms. Lenhart said.

“We have structured time in our day for recess,” said Ms. Ewell, adding that covered structures and picnic tables provide the venue for outdoors learning activities and crafts.

Ms. Ewell recognized the support of the center’s administration, instructional and custodial staff, Indian River School District administration and board of education, Building and Grounds Supervisor Joseph Booth and of course the Carl M. Freeman Foundation.

“The $5,000 was the catalyst that got this off the ground. With this award we were able to take what was just an idea and vision of what we had and really bring it to life,” said Ms. Ewell, who gave a special shout out to Noel Lenhart for writing the grant. “When she came to me with the idea I said ‘Go for it.’”

Research and consultation with the therapists and occupational therapists factored in the wish list for equipment that would be beneficial for student motor development.

“When I came on board last year I just thought we needed someplace for the kids to be able to play,” said Ms. Lenhart. “All of them are special needs, but some of them have orthopedic special needs that really need that exercise and everything. I thought it would be great to have some developmentally and age appropriate equipment instead of having to go across the parking lot to the playground or just playing in empty space with some balls.”


News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.