Play matters. Kids, parents and educators agree that play is needed in school. Recent research shows that more play is needed because there is a positive effect on how kids learn when they can play. Outdoor play teaches many of the fundamental tasks that children must achieve, such as, exploring, risk-taking, fine and gross motor development and the absorption of vast amounts of basic knowledge, can be most effectively learned though outdoor play. 1 Arlington Community Academy is a new school in Jacksonville, FL. It was built on a piece of land two years ago and opened in August 2017 with grades Pre-K through 2nd. The school has a new, modern design that encourages best practice and collaborative learning. There is a large outdoor play area on the school campus. However, according to Head of School, Lauren May, a field only offers so much for students to do. While the students enjoyed playing tag, having obstacle courses, and ball games like kickball, there was a need for a playground. The school applied for a grant through KaBOOM2 , a national nonprofit that partners with organizations that believe #playmatters. In December, the school was awarded a “Build it with KaBOOM” grant. A Build it with KaBOOM grant provides the facilitation and support of an experienced Project Manager as community members embark on a 5–12 week planning process. Arlington Community Academy received a call in December and found out that the main funding partner for this project was Target. On January 24, KaBOOM and Target came to Arlington Community Academy and worked with students to design their dream playground. When asked why she chose this grant, Mrs. May said, “This grant was special because I wanted the students to see how many members of the community believe in them and care about them. For them to know that over 200 came together to make this possible should inspire them to use it well and treat it with love.” Research agrees that play is imperative to a child’s development, improving the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of the infant and child.1 A team of school employees and community members was created and there were weekly calls with KaBOOM to ensure the project was under way. Arlington Community Academy and the Boys and Girls Club raised $10,000 from community members to offset the cost of the playground. They also got over 400 meals donated from local partners including McDonald’s, Jimmy John’s and Winn Dixie. They recruited 140 volunteers to join them during the week of the playground build. On Friday, March 23, over 220 volunteers came together to for the Kaboom Build Day. Volunteers included 125 Target employees plus volunteers from other partners in play including Auld and White Constructors, Bank of America’s Merrill Edge, Citi Bank, the City of Jacksonville, and others. Volunteers moved 135 cubic yards of mulch, built over 15 benches, built 4 picnic tables, built an outdoor classroom with a chalkboard, built a sand box and lid, built a tube wall, built a music wall, planted 6 citrus trees, 2 river birch trees, and 2 live oak trees, plus they built a beautiful 2000 square foot playground for the students at Arlington Community Academy and the Boys & Girls Club! Lakeshia Youmans, a mother of two boys in Kindergarten at Arlington Community Academy, was a volunteer during build week. She said, “I cannot believe so many people are here. The kids are so happy, and this is needed because my boys will be here for a long time!” Her son, Kesshawn, said, “I am so happy to be here! I love my school!” She also added, “This will give me boys a safe place to go. It gives them a place to be instead of getting into trouble on the streets.” Outdoor play time is an opportunity for a child to freely play, or think the way they want to think, and not be directed by an adult or teacher. This type of thinking enables the child to use the brain the way he or she wishes to use it. Children are also physically active during play, and develop social, emotional and cognitive competencies. 3 Mrs. May said the look of the students’ faces when the playground was revealed made the planning for the event worth it. She said, “We showed the students at Arlington Community Academy and the Boys and Girls Club that dreams are possible when you have a team of people that are committed to making it happen. The lessons learned from this day are going to stick with our students forever. Lives were changed today, in a very impactful and positive way.” Sources 1 Johnson, J., Christie, J., Wardle, F. (2010). The Importance of Outdoor Play for Children. Retrieved from: http://www.communityplaythings.com/resources/articles/2010/outdoor- play 2 https://kaboom.org/grants/build_it_with_kaboom 3 Pellegrini, A. D., & Bohn-Gettler, C. M. (2013). The Benefits of Recess in Primary School. Scholarpedia, 8(2), 30448. doi:10.4249