By Eric Torrey
City Road Chapel United Methodist Church in Madison, Tennessee, started with the building of a house of worship in 1848. The church moved to a new location in 1872. After that building burned down in 1899, a new church was built at the present site. Since then, the church has continued to grow, adding new buildings, expanding existing ones, and renovating when appropriate.
In 1979, a Child Development Center was established when the church adopted the ministry of Before/After school care for children in grades K-6. In 1986, the program was expanded to include preschool care.
The center received 3-STAR Accreditation (the highest rating available) from the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS). The Star-Quality Child Care Program was launched in 2000-2001 as a voluntary program to recognize childcare agencies meeting a higher standard of quality than required for licensure.
A focus on high standards of quality is evident throughout the Center’s Family Handbook, which outlines the center’s policies and procedures.
In the Physical Activity Policies section of the Family Handbook, it is made clear that time allotted for physical activity will adhere to [or exceed] TDHS licensure rules. Policy One states that “physical activity for children ages three years and older must be a balance of structured and unstructured play both indoors and outdoors (weather permitting) utilizing age appropriate activities.”
The center has a nice outdoor playground area measuring approximately 98’ X 36’. Unfortunately, the playground equipment they had was worn and in need of repairs. Additionally, many sections of the rubber tile safety surfacing were loose or missing, creating an unsafe play space.
Rev. Jay Voorhees posted on the church’s website explaining the playground renovation project. He wrote, “For several years, we have been working to look at upgrading our playground. Our existing playground has reached the end of its life and it’s time for something new.”
After looking at play equipment options, City Road Chapel UMC chose EcoPlay Structures to design, build, and install their new playground equipment that would be age-appropriate for three groups (toddler, 2-5 years old, and 5-12 years old). Poured-in-place rubber safety surfacing would replace the rubber tiles.
According to Diane Iovino, director of childcare ministries, there were many reasons to choose EcoPlay Structures as the company to work with, but some things stood out to her.
“We looked at their past work,” Iovino said, “and it was great; plus [existing customers] provided great reviews.”
Site preparation was done by church members. They removed the old equipment and rubber tiles, and then they patched the concrete slab. Doing site work themselves saved money. Once the site was ready, the EcoPlay Structures installation team arrived and had all the equipment installed in three days.
The toddler area features a large playhouse with play panels. A play panel wall separates the toddler area from the 2-5 area – allowing children to see each other, but not collide with each other. Using a variety of activities, play panels help with fine motor skill development.
The 2-5 area features a play structure with angled climbers and step climbers, and a slide. The structure has a maximum deck height of 48 inches.
The play structure in the 5-12 area has two slides (including a spiral slide), overhead climbers, vertical climbers, and even a rock-climbing wall. These items would not be age-appropriate for children under the age of 5 who have not developed the upper body strength necessary to use them properly.
After the play equipment was installed, No Fault Sport Group arrived and installed the PIP rubber safety surfacing.
Now that the playground is open, “the children are very excited,” says Iovino. “Especially our school age children because they have their own play equipment on this playground.”
Eric Torrey is a commercial playground consultant for EcoPlay Structures, Inc. For additional information on playground equipment, and to discuss adding a play structure at your church, visit www.ecoplaystructures.com/churches.