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Go Ask Mom

Destination: PlayWell Park at Poe Center for Health Education

Posted June 22
Updated June 23

The Raleigh playground, opened in the mid-2000s, got a new playground in June 2017 thanks to a community effort. The playground serves as an extension of Poe's health-centered programs.

For more than a dozen years at the Poe Center for Health Education's PlayWell Park, kids have scrambled up the "rib rise" and "nerve net," slid from a "nose" down a "tongue," and zoomed from "ear to ear."

The 1.5-acre playground at the center, 224 Sunnybrook Rd., Raleigh, has been a popular spot for kids, who are visiting during school field trips, summer camps or weekday outings with their families or caregivers. The playground is free and open to the public when the center is open, usually 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekdays. It's also available for weekend rentals and has been a venue for birthday parties.

The health-themed play equipment, which probably looks like no other playground you've seen, helps to bring the lessons that kids learn inside - about healthy lifestyles - outside. The "rib rise" is a giant skeleton, which kids climb up to a wide deck with a slide. The "nerve net" is a net they can scramble up and down on. A zip line takes kids from one giant ear to another. Two red tube slides are designed to look like heart arteries.

Another piece features a giant pair of sunglasses, which kids can look through, and then exit by way of a "nose" down that red "tongue" slide. And there's a Healthy Choices Maze, which kids move through as they make healthy decisions about everything from breakfast foods to bullying to substance abuse.

"We're about experiential learning," said Ann Rollins, Poe Center's executive director. "For preschool and school-aged kids, play is the best way to learn."

And, now, thanks to KaBOOM, a national nonprofit dedicated to ensuring all kids have a place to play, and more than 150 local volunteers, the playground has a new play structure that comes complete with pieces that kids can climb or spin around on.

The new play pieces came together in an effort that started just about eight weeks ago. In partnership with KaBOOM, the center held a workshop for kids, who helped design the new playground. On June 10, volunteers from MetLife Foundation and the community converged at the park to build the playground and work on other projects, including spreading countless wheelbarrows of mulch. The work also includes a new outdoor garden and classroom where the Poe Center can teach classes about gardening and healthy eating.

"It's an asset to this southeast Raleigh neighborhood," Rollins said.

Most of the park's original play pieces remain to make way for the new play pieces. The center did remove a "bone balance" area where kids could balance on a series of beams placed in the shape of a person.

The new play pieces are more typical of what you'd find in any playground with slides, monkey bars and plenty of opportunities to climb and spin around. There's also a wheelchair accessible water and sand table, along with plastic drums that kids can bang. Rollins said center staff is working to incorporate health-related themes into the new play structure so it's similar to the other pieces scattered across the play space.

Said Jennifer Bell, the center's marketing director: "There's so much potential."

A visit to the playground, which sits near WakeMed's main Raleigh campus, makes for a fun morning or afternoon. And, even during the summer months, it's pretty shady, with tall trees and two new shade covers over large picnic areas, courtesy of funding from the American Association of Dermatologists.

The Poe Center offers a variety of programs for parents and kids in addition to the playground. The center's website has more information.

Go Ask Mom features places to take kids every Friday. For more, check our posts on parks and playgrounds and Triangle family destinations.

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