Kids have a hand in designing Tree House playground

By on February 7, 2018
Children will walk through a hole in a tree to enter the Tree House playground, and double ziplines  are  in  the  plans,  as  shown  in  this child’s design.

Children will walk through a hole in a tree to enter the Tree House playground, and double ziplines are in the plans, as shown in this child’s design.

The Lititz Church of the Brethren, partnering with Play By Design, revealed the plans for a new all-inclusive playground designed by local children during Tree House Design Day.

The dreaming

This playground will be unique to Lancaster County, designed from children’s ideas, paid for, and built by the Lititz community.

“We were honored to be a partner on the design phase of this project,” said Warwick School District superintendent Dr. April Hershey.

On the morning of Jan. 30, designers from Play By Design and members of the playground committee visited Warwick elementary schools and Lititz Christian School to brainstorm and dream with the children. Prior to that, a parent letter and survey were sent home with all students so that they could start to design ahead of time.

At Warwick, teachers selected several students from each class to meet with the designers; and at Lititz Christian, designers were able to meet with a whole class.

“It was lovely to watch our students’ dream of their perfect playground,” states Hershey.

By noon on Design Day, the designers were back at the church drawing and incorporating ideas from the children, along with ideas that had been submitted ahead of time from an online survey that was open to the community at large.

The vision

As park-goers enter the playground through a giant hole in the center of a tree trunk, they will see a spectacle only a child could come up with. The Tree House will feature double zip lines, a pirate ship, a telephone, a wheelchair swing, and an obstacle course that ends in a misting station. There will be towers based on the four seasons, a maze, a stainless steel slide, a twisty snake slide, a fireman’s pole, a tire swing, a rock wall, and even a preschool area with a tunnel and mushrooms.

“Children will have a sense of pride and ownership in this playground. They will someday be able to tell their kids that they helped design and build this amazing playground for all children to enjoy,” said Courtney Richie, who serves as vice chair of the Tree House committee and chair of the Design Day committee.

Not only do the kids have a sense of pride, but also strong empathy.

“I was one of the church members who went out with a designer to Bonfield Elementary. We interviewed representatives of each class,” said Jim Grossnickle-Batterton, Lititz Church of the Brethren pastor of spiritual care. “I was really impressed listening to the natural way several kids were thinking about how to include children who had different physical abilities. More than once an idea was offered, and one of the students would question how that might be possible for someone in a wheelchair or on crutches. These are obviously issues that the students have thought about before.

“Modeling empathy and inclusion with our children, building these things into their play, helps them believe that working and existing in a cooperative manner with all kinds of people is possible even when the world outside the playground tells them otherwise,” he added.

The unveiling

On the evening of Jan. 30, the planning committee unveiled its design. The roughly 300 people who attended sang songs; welcomed the designers; and read “We’re All Wonders,” as a reminder that even though none of us can change the way we look, “maybe, just maybe, people can change the way they see.”

At last, the designers unveiled the long-awaited Tree House drawing and walked the children through their new playground. Afterward, Lititz Church of the Brethren senior high youth ran carnival-style games and everyone enjoyed ice cream and water ice donated by Greco’s.

The building

The playground will be constructed over a period of six days. This task is tantamount to building three houses in six days. The plans will meet safety standards for children of all abilities.

The fundraising and building will rely on the support of the community and local businesses.

“We all are a part of its story,” says Eric Landram, lead pastor at Lititz Church of the Brethren. “The Tree House is made possible by everyone for everyone.”

Ambitious community members are already signing up to get their hands dirty. After construction, there will be a community-wide grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony. Then, the park will open for play every day from dawn until dusk.

“When neighbors love neighbors and we all step up and do our part to make a difference, that is what makes Lititz the coolest small town,” Landram said.

Lititz Church of the Brethren hopes to rally the community, seeking the help of everyone. Volunteers can assist in fundraising, building, and painting. Donations of tools and building materials are needed.

“It is a great way to bring the entire community together like never before,” added Richie.”It allows us to show that we truly care for each other.”

Volunteers are also needed to provide meals to workers during construction days. Artistic individuals are needed to paint murals and designs on equipment.

“This project is important for Lititz because it provides the community a safe place to gather, to make connections, build relationships, and meet new people,” says Sonya Widders, a member of Lititz COB, who serves on the Tree House committee.

The plan is to break ground in 2018, once funds have been raised for the project.

To donate, volunteer, or learn more, visit treehouselititz.com.

Sarah Hummer is a freelance contributor to the Record Express and appreciates your comments. Email her at hummersarahj@hotmail.com.

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