A Log Roll That Doesn’t Roll Is No Fun!
What do you do with a zip line that doesn’t zip? Or a log roll encased in mulch? Goldwood Primary School PTA decided to rip them out and install dynamic new playground equipment.
“We want our kids to have fun and really move their bodies,” said Beth McBride, Co-Chair of the Playground Renovation Committee. “Standing around on empty platforms and waiting in line for the few fun remaining pieces does not burn energy or challenge kids,” she continued.
To raise funds for the renovation, Goldwood PTA is getting students involved. What do kids really want to do? Watch a group for a little while and the answer is obvious: they want to move. Out of that need for motion came the Kids’ Triathlon. Tweaking the traditional concept, Melissa Walsh took the lead in designing an event that combines walking, reading, and (choice of) dancing or martial arts.
Melissa and her co-chair, Janeece Ansevin, are bringing in a DJ to set a groove for the dancers and Riverview Martial Arts to lead kids in some high power moves. Not to be outdone, Goldwood first grade teacher Cathy Bitounis is busy creating interactive reading sessions. The idea is to break the kids into groups by grade and challenge them at their developmental level for each activity. Thus, older kids aren’t bored reading picture books and younger kids aren’t left behind in a novel.
Similar to other fundraising runs and bicycling events, participants are encouraged to gather their own sponsors. Whether local or far-flung, neighbors, family members and friends can contribute to the event while the kids sweat a little.
The “movement” aspect of both the triathlon and the renovation is crucial for another reason: combating obesity. The Ohio Department of Health in a March 2011 study found that in Cuyahoga County, 37.7% of third graders (2009-10) fell into the overweight and obese categories, a 10% increase from 2004-05. It would be comforting to think that this is simply a metropolitan problem. But the report also found that 30.7% of children in suburban counties fell into the overweight and obese categories. Clearly, this problem is not restricted to any one area or demographic.
Teaching kids that movement is fun – and that pull-ups don’t have to be done in the gym – is essential to promoting a healthy lifestyle. Liz Fougerousse, Goldwood’s Fitness Education teacher, has developed a variety of ways to integrate the playground into the school district’s curriculum.
The concept for a playground renovation was first voiced at a PTA meeting in the spring of 2012. After research, parent surveys, and bids, current co-chairs Erin Konet, Liz Harmath and Beth McBride built a plan with Play and Park Structures. Of course, it’s never as simple as just buying equipment – after drainage, installation, promotion, etc. are factored in, the project tops $120,000. The Rocky River City School District contributed $24,900 and PTA capitalized on some early purchasing discounts, but t-shirt sales are not going to be enough to raise the remaining funds.
Community involvement has been vital to fundraising thus far. Rocky River Education Foundation and Rocky River Women’s Club each contributed $10,000. Additional contributions have come from Lakewood-Rocky River Rotary Club, Rocky River Soccer Organization, KaBOOM! (a national non-profit dedicated to playgrounds) and a variety of individuals, as well as the many families who have supported single fundraisers.
One surprising aspect of this project is its place in the heart of the community. While Goldwood children use the space during the day, all children (from any school) can use it on evenings, weekends and during longed-for summer breaks. Erin Konet noted that “for siblings of soccer and Little League players, it acts as a release valve while waiting through another practice or game.”
In addition to eliminating the log roll and zip line, the plan calls for removing the 1991-92 wood structures. Time has taken its toll and many of their interactive components have been removed due to deterioration. Of course, the beloved geodome will stay, as well as the 1998 structure that is in good working order.
The new equipment will be placed within the current mulched footprint. This was a conscious decision because, while survey results clearly supported the need for new equipment, parents also wanted to preserve ample room for free play. Existing green space and blacktop are being maintained to allow for traditional playground games like Four Square, jump rope, hula hoops, etc. and to accommodate a new ball toss, which functions like a multi-exit basketball hoop.
For more information about the playground renovation or the Triathlon, go to http://www.rrcs.org/GPSPTA.aspx.
What: Kids’ Triathlon
Who: Kids Pre-K to 5th grade
When: Friday, April 11, 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Where: Rocky River Civic Center
How Much: Donations are accepted for incentive raffles!
Liz Harmath is a parent and active PTA member at Goldwood Primary School and Kensington Intermediate School.