They proved that last Saturday when they began work on a special playground for special students at Oakman Elementary School.
The Creative/Natural Outdoor Play and Learning Area is being built entirely by volunteers and with donations made by local businesses and individuals.
The playground, which is expected to be completed by the first of April, is designed for students with learning disabilities and physical handicaps.
Heidi Davis and Tina Clement teach the class of seven students ranging in age from 5 to 9 years old. They are assisted by Ann Shepherd and Theressa Harris.
“You learn through nature,” Davis said. “All your senses, your touch, your smell are important to learning.”
That’s the basis of the playground, which is designed for students to play in a natural environment which is more creative and imaginative and fosters language development, Davis said.
“We’re doing a natural, outdoor play and learning area for our kids,” she said. “It’s very important for these kids because all their senses are being used.”
Some students in the class are visually impaired, while others are autistic and others have physical limitations that make playing on the school’s playground almost impossible.
“They need to play,” Davis said. “They need the social aspect of it, too, where they play with each other. We have to play with them, because many do not know how to play. We have to teach them to play.
“All those things we take for granted with our kids and grandkids when it comes to play,” she added, “these kids don’t do those things.”
Davis said the students have a little fun by making mud pies, but they are also learning during the process.
“They love it,” she said. “It’s fun stuff but they are also learning and developing language. With our students, that’s how they learn — through playing.”
Part of the learning involves teachers participating alongside the students.
“We play right there with them,” Davis said. “We’ll show them how to do things, then we’ll see if they can do it. It’s not just play time, it’s learning time, too. A lot of the things in our classroom is ‘I do, we do, they do.’ It’s following two- and three-step commands.”
“We have to step back sometimes and remember that things we think are easy just because we instinctively do them, they don’t know how to do. That’s what is so sad,” she said.
The volunteers from Providence Baptist Church, who were joined by Beryl Nichols, whose wife Marta is principal of the school, spent several hours getting started on the playground.
They are expected to work for the next several Saturdays to complete the playground in time for spring.
The project, Davis said, would not be possible without the volunteers.
“We couldn’t do this without the volunteers,” Davis said. “The funds are kind of slim. We bought some of the materials with money that was donated, but the rest is volunteered.
“These students learn in different ways, and whatever it takes to incorporate a way to teach them, that’s what we’ll do,” Davis added. “The things we take for granted — the simple things — aren’t so simple for these kids.”
Anyone wishing to donate to the project can do so by calling Davis at Oakman Elementary School.