MERIDIAN — Molly O’Donnell is an early childhood special education teacher at Hillsdale Elementary. She’s thinking outside the classroom. O’Donnell is taking her preschoolers right next door to the South Meridian YMCA for their school work.

It’s a community collaboration between the YMCA and Hillsdale Elementary, and it involves a physical connection; with just a walk down a hallway between the two. The executive director of the YMCA, Mike Kapuscinski, says it’s the only community partnership of its kind in the country.

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“To be able to share not only spaces, but to be able to share also common values with the school system, that's really where it all comes together,” says Kapuscinski. “We can talk about technology all day and technology makes a difference, but when you and I were kids, what made a difference is fun.”

With use of a play structure at the Y, O’Donnell is able to focus her lessons on that basic FUNdamental of learning.

This opportunity is giving her students, like Levi, experiences they’ve never had before.

“This is his third time he's gotten to play in a play structure. Just because of his needs, he isn't able to access playground equipment as easily. So, this is fantastic that he can do this in a safe environment where his needs are met,” says O’Donnell.

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While this collaboration has only been going on for a few short weeks, the kids are already making huge leaps in learning.

“One of my students specifically is significantly stronger since we started this,” says O’Donnell. “I think getting her to be walking is a much closer goal than it would have been without this opportunity.”

Educational exercises, disguised by playtime. Molly O’Donnell is this week’s “innovative educator.”

We highlight an innovative educator every Monday morning on Today's morning news.