Blanchie Carter Discovery Park at Southern Pines Primary School

The Opportunity

Located in the center of Southern Pines, NC, a small town of about 13,000 residents, Southern Pines Primary School serves 425 children in K-2nd grade. The school’s playground was barren and unsafe; it lacked grass, trees, and adequate playground equipment. Parents and school leadership wanted to improve the playground, so they worked to create an outdoor classroom for the children.

Innovations and Improvements

Use Nature to Nurture:

  • The playground was designed and built to incorporate nature and to be used for environmental education.

Create Diverse Spaces and Activities

  • The playground has spaces for all kinds of activities, from the gazebo to the garden to the play structure.

Foster Safety and Support:

  • About 75% of the schoolyard was fenced in, leaving it accessible as a community park while providing security.
  • Pea gravel was utilized in all fall zones.

Enhance Accessibility and Inclusion:

  • Improvements were made with universal access in mind.
  • Universal design strategies include Braille signs, a tactile map, and a beeper soccer ball.


  • The PTA continues to maintain and manage the playground.

The Impact

Students at Southern Pines Primary School now have far more opportunities for play and positive social interactions. The enhancements have inspired and provided environmental education, imaginative play, and a dedication to physical health.

“There are many different kinds of children, from ‘gross motor energizer bunnies’ to quiet, introspective children who like to look at flowers and birds. Blanchie Carter Discovery Park provides something for all children. Children respond, positively or negatively, to their surroundings, and Discovery Park provides a vibrant, diverse, rich environment.” – Bruce Cunningham, Parent

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