Berkley Center community celebrates new preschool playground

Families, staff and supporters gathered for an official dedication and ribbon cutting on June 11


June 15, 2015

Playing has never been so much fun at the Edgar L. & Rheta A. Berkley Child and Family Development Center.  

The early childhood center, which serves as a learning laboratory for students in the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s School of Education, officially dedicated a much needed new preschool playground on June 11 during the Berkley Center’s 22nd birthday celebration and curriculum night.  

The playground was funded through donations from parents, grandparents, staff, alumni families and other donors, including the Oppenstein Brothers Foundation, which generously gave a $20,000 lead gift to launch the project.  

In all, the center raised approximately $80,000 to demolish and remove an old play structure and create the new play area, which Berkley Center director Polly Prendergast describes as an outdoor learning environment, where children can play with water, make mud pies, and simply explore their imaginations.  

“Now we have an age-appropriate space for all the preschool children we serve,” Prendergast said.  

The new playground creates more open space for “big body play” and has a large emphasis on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) and “loose parts play.”  

Loose parts are materials that can be moved, carried, combined, put together, and taken apart in a number of ways, creating a play environment that children can manipulate.  

“This is a really critical element of children’s play,“ Prendergast said. “Materials that can be used for building, games — any games — are critical elements for children’s decision-making and mathematical and cooperation skills.”  

Joining Prendergast at the playground dedication were Charles Sosland, Oppenstein Brothers Foundation disbursement committee and UMKC Foundation board member; Beth Radtke, Commerce Bank foundation office director; Steven Norris, UMKC Foundation president; Chris Brown, UMKC School of Education interim dean, and Kelley Schnieders, Berkley Family Involvement Program president.   

The Berkley Center serves 100 children, ages 3 months to 5 years old. The new playground is for children 2 to 5 years old. Center officials hope to continue outdoor renovations soon by making improvements to the center’s infant/toddler playground.