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Children’s Center Playground Renovation: A Capstone Project to Benefit Our Community
The Young Women’s Christian Association, known globally as the YWCA, in Kalamazoo, Michigan offers many services and programs to the local community, including programs aimed at improving children’s lives. The YWCA Kalamazoo Children’s Center is a licensed 4-star learning center that hosts children aged six weeks to around six years old daily. Following a philosophy that each child develops at their own rate, the Children’s Center seeks to include age-appropriate and culturally diverse playground experiences that correlate with each child’s specific needs and skills. However, the Kalamazoo YWCA’s existing outdoor play area was worn and outdated, lacking opportunities to support children’s learning and growth or to provide interesting play activities. An interdisciplinary capstone senior project team followed the engineering design process from problem definition, through research and brainstorming, to initial design and stakeholder approval, to prototyping, and finally creating a sustainable, engaging, and appealing children’s play and garden area to fulfill the YWCA’s needs for many years to come. This student paper will provide findings of extensive research on current children’s playground and garden designs as well as study of children’s abilities and curriculum by age. The designs of the new equipment, begun as hand sketches and then modeled in AutoCAD, PTC Creo Parametric, or Revit, are provided. The final equipment, playscapes, and playground layouts with nature as a theme will be shown. Of equal value to the project team’s professional development, the team’s interactions with their stakeholders – the YWCA administrators and project funders – will be described. The student authors also discuss the significance of service learning as a valuable contribution to their academic education.