New Playground at FATE Allows All Kids to Play Together

Fred A. Toomer Elementary School now has a new playground with features that make it more accessible for students with special needs and mobility issues. Teacher Emily Max won a $100,000 grant from Farmers Insurance to fund the project.

Now ALL the students at Fred A. Toomer Elementary School can play together, thanks to the vision of a teacher and a gift from Farmers Insurance®.

Monday morning, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held to officially open a new, inclusive playground behind the east Atlanta school. The area has a soft rubber floor and is constructed to make it easily accessible for students with special needs or mobility issues.

The project is the brainchild of Toomer kindergarten teacher Emily Max, who was one of six nationwide winners of the Farmers Insurance® Dream Big Teacher Challenge in 2015. Max began thinking of the idea when she noticed that the school’s large playground was not completely accessible to all of the students at Toomer. For example, the area’s floor of soft wood chips made it extremely difficult for students with wheelchairs or other mobility issues to move around freely.

“This is what I dreamed about,” said Max. “I especially like that all the equipment is designed for the students to make eye contact with each other.”

Max said that subtle aspect of interaction can be difficult, especially in the classroom, for some students who do not want to appear as if they are staring at one of their peers who is different from them.

“That can be a struggle sometimes,” Max said. “But out here everything is designed in such a way that that eye contact will come naturally. To see all of our kids be able to play together independently, that was my true vision.”

Toomer Principal Ashley Adamo agreed.

“I think this playground will help all of our kids see more of how they are alike, instead of seeing their differences,” she said. “I think it is going to foster more and greater interaction between all of our students, and allow them to play independently, together.”

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