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YOUR WORLD

Anything is Possible

Melody Day convinced her school to build a playground all kids can use.

The sun was shining brightly as Melody Day entered a playground in August. Six big, colorful musical instruments had just been installed at Heritage Elementary School in Wentzville, Missouri. The sixth-grader couldn’t help tears of joy from falling.

“I am amazed by this,” Melody said at the time.

This isn’t just any playground. The Melody Garden is the result of two years of Melody’s hard work. She helped her school build a place where all kids can play. That includes kids like her, who use wheelchairs.

“I just want all kids to be happy,” she says.

Left Out

A piece of equipment at the Melody Garden

Melody came up with her plan two years ago, when she was in fourth grade. The playground at Heritage Elementary wasn’t accessible to her. Melody couldn’t use any of the equipment. She couldn’t even roll her wheelchair through the gravel that surrounded the equipment to get into the playground.

So, during recess, Melody’s friends would chat with her for a bit. Then they’d run off to the swings or monkey bars. That would leave Melody all alone.

“I just watched them go and play,” Melody recalls. “I would think to myself, ‘Why am I just sitting here?’”

Melody decided to look beyond the barriers and she saw an opportunity. She would help her school build a more inclusive playground! No kid would be left out because of a disability.

“I don’t want kids to feel like outsiders,” Melody says. “I don’t want them to be pushed aside—it’s not right.”

Melody at her newly designed playground

Challenge Accepted

Getting a new playground built wasn’t going to be easy, but Melody has never let a challenge stop her. She was born with a condition called cerebral palsy (CP). Many people with CP have a hard time controlling the movements of their muscles.

“I have trouble getting in and out of my wheelchair,” Melody explains. “And lifting things with my right hand is hard.”

But Melody says she didn’t want to change things for only kids with CP.

“People in wheelchairs aren’t the only ones who have disabilities,” she says.

What Melody Wants You to Know

  • You don’t have to go with the crowd and be like others. Be yourself, no matter who you are.
  • Don’t judge people by their disability. Get to know them. You never know what you might have in common.
  • If you want to make a difference, don’t let your disability stop you. It doesn’t define you.

Fair Play

Melody presented her idea for a new playground to her principal, who loved it. But there was a problem—the school didn’t have the money to pay for it.

Melody didn’t give up. She started a GoFundMe page, where people donated money. Inspired by Melody, her classmates donated their allowances and held fund-raisers.

It took two years, but Melody’s dream finally became a reality this summer. It may look like just a few instruments. But to Melody and others, it’s a place that lets them know they belong.

Melody is now helping her school plan a more inclusive playground for younger students. And she won’t stop there.

“Just because I have a wheelchair doesn’t mean I can’t make a difference,” she says.

Breaking Barriers

Imagine you can’t go to school. Why? You use a wheelchair. Your school might deny entry to kids with disabilities. Or maybe the school isn’t accessible. For decades, situations like this were common.

“People with disabilities had little to no rights across the U.S.,” says Keri Gray of the American Association of People with Disabilities.

In 1990, a new law called the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) helped change that. The ADA says that places like schools and stores must be made accessible to people with disabilities. That means installing ramps, putting wheelchair lifts on buses, and more. The law also makes it illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities. Despite the law, some public places still are not accessible to all.

Continue the Learning Journey
SLIDESHOW
Be an Engineer!

Follow these steps to plan and design an inclusive playground.

Imagine that Melody asked you to help her design an inclusive playground for kids with disabilities in your school or local park. What would you include and why? Use the slideshow above to help you design a playground that would be accessible to all children!

Reread the sidebar “What Melody Wants You to Know.” What advice would you want to share with others? Brainstorm your ideas. Then pick your top three tips and explain why they are important. Now turn your tips into an inspirational poster! Title your poster “What _____ Wants You to Know,” writing your name in the blank. Add drawings and colors so the poster represents you. Then display your work somewhere in your home for your family members and friends to see! What do they think of your tips?

VIDEO
My Story: Melody Day

Watch a video to hear more from Melody about the playground she helped create.

After watching the video, think about different ways people can make others feel happy and included, just like Melody did. Make a list of your ideas. Then ask your friends and family members to share a time when they have helped make somebody else feel happy or included. Add any new ideas to your list. When you’re done, hang your list on a wall you look at often. Remember, you can make a difference!

Write an acrostic poem about a playground! In an acrostic poem, the first letter of each line spells a word when put together. See below for an example. Each line can be a single word, phrase, or sentence about the topic. Your poem can be serious or silly, and it does not have to rhyme!

 

Playground

 

Please

let

all

young kids

go

running or sitting or playing music

on colorful equipment

under the sun

nobody left out

day after day.

This article was written by Nicole Tocco for Scholastic News magazine.

Image Credits: Whitney Curtis/AP Images for Scholastic, Inc.