ADA Accessible Music Garden (With Floor Piano) for Elementary School, Kansas

November 2018

Park Hill Elementary, part of Derby Public Schools, recently received ADA compliant playground equipment, thanks to the passing of a bond that will eventually ensure inclusive play is achievable in all nine elementary schools within the district. Park Hill is unique in that is the only music themed playground in the community.

Prior to the bond, only one school within the district had an accessible playground. Having seen that inclusive play is a vital component within a school’s development, Derby Public Schools Board of Education approved the funding and each of the nine elementary schools will have inclusive playground equipment installed through the bond for students to enjoy.

Bringing Musical Play to Park Hill

Park Hill Elementary Principal Sandy Rusher was sold on the concept of developing a musical-themed ADA accessible play space as soon as she spotted a picture of the colourful rainbow sambas from Percussion Play. Therefore, once the funding was approved, Principal Rusher and the Director of Special Services set to work alongside ABCreative consultant Julie Scott to design their new musical garden.

Park Hill serves kindergarten through 5th Grade as well as multiple Special Education programs and therefore accessibility was obviously a key consideration in the design process. The goal was for any child – regardless of his or her abilities or mobility device used – to be able to move freely and access all the outdoor musical instruments. Ergo the team ensured the layout and surfacing would allow children in wheelchairs or other mobility devices to be engaged, active and able to play the alongside other students. They even included a Baby Floor Piano, the first of its kind in the USA, on which students can compose their own music as they jump, run or dance, walk or wheel across the keys.

What Makes This Musical Garden ADA Accessible & Inclusive ?

The musical garden at Park Hill is full of many different instruments, both pentatonic and diatonic, to create endless musical opportunities for both recess and outdoor music lessons but also for therapy. Outdoor musical instruments can be great motivators during physio or occupational therapy for pupils with more complex physical needs, giving these children a powerful tool to help build their communication, motor, and social skills. For social interaction within a small or large group, music is an invaluable tool. Children learn how to take turns, how to listen and respond to another person. Music changes lives because it has the power to remove physical and verbal barriers, strengthen the self-awareness and confidence of special needs students and give them effective resources for communicating with others and interacting with the world around them.

  • Rainbow Sambas - Two sets of 5 Rainbow Sambas snake their way through the middle of the music garden. Bright and vibrant, these drums can be played individually or will be perfect for a dynamic outdoor drumming workshop. Group drumming encourages socialisation, self-expression, communication, and motor development.
  • Rainbow Cavatina outdoor xylophone with has vibrantly coloured anodised notes set to our rainbow scale to work alongside our music book.
  • Music Book with pages of colour-coded music sheets which corresponds with the notes of the Rainbow Cavatina to give the students the chance to quickly learn to play familiar songs without learning conventional notation.
  • Diatonic Symphony Chimes has twenty-two sleek aluminium outdoor chimes on which endless tunes can be learnt and played. Fun for both beginners and students who are beginning to learn music and developing their ability to hear and recognise the different notes.
  • Duo Cupla which is accessible from both sides and clever wave design which makes it easier for individuals with limited range of movement, or players in wheelchairs, to reach all of the notes. The Duo and its wave design is also particularly beneficial for those with autism as the instrument allows for close social interaction without forcing close proximity or direct eye contact.
  • Emperor Chimes which can be struck with just the palm of a hand or fingertips just about anywhere along the tube to produce a soft, velvety rich tone with a resonance that can be heard and also felt. Perfect for children with limited movement who can place their hands on the vibrating chimes to elicit a positive response.
  • Baby Floor Piano with sonorous sub-surface bells that create clear distinctive tones beneath the feet or wheelchair.
  • Handpipes - plosive aerophones played with just the hands to deliver a wonderfully funky sound.
  • Papilio a tubular bell metallophone, pentatonically tuned to enable students who don’t “get” notation or who are still learning to pursue their musical aspirations.
  • Sonora is based on the Duo Outdoor Xylophone however this is upright and each note has a half degree spacing away from the centre creating a wave effect. Again, this instrument is pentatonic so the students can focus on the sounds produced and develop their ability to improvise or free play and open up a world of expression, imagination, and fun!

    “It’s awesome to hear the music playing and it’s a beautiful, engaging space for students.” Sandy Rusher, Principal, Park Hill Elementary