Playground Project Engages Parents, Community and Partners

Playground Project Engages Parents, Community and Partners
Posted on 10/08/2019
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Playground project engages parents, community and partners

It’s cool when a school provides a new resource – like a playground – to enrich students’ lives. It’s even cooler when a project – like building a new playground – engages parents, members of the local community, and partners with the commitment and resources to support worthwhile initiatives.

A project recently completed by Constellation Schools: Old Brooklyn Community Middle (and its elementary sister school) falls into the super cool category – not just because students now have a great place to play, but because of the synergy created through partnerships with KaBoom!, Major League Baseball’s Players Association Players Trust, UPS and other local businesses, neighborhood churches, parents and others with a passion for community service.

“We had playgrounds, but they were too small for use by all our students,” explained Principal Cherie Kaiser. “Recognizing the importance of physical activity for the well-being of our students, we made building a new playground a priority and discovered KaBoom! grant opportunities while looking for ways to raise the funds needed to make it happen.”

Kaiser first applied for a “build your own” grant from KaBoom!, which contacted her to recommend a “community build” grant instead. Although it would require a great amount of effort to recruit the 250 volunteers needed to move forward, Kaiser embraced the challenge.

“It evolved into a dynamic initiative that resulted in amazing community support,” Kaiser said. “(Carlos) Santana, (Jake) Bauers and other Cleveland Indians players visited Old Brooklyn to talk with students and give them the opportunity to provide input on the plan. That gave students a sense of ownership and built enthusiasm for the project.”

According to Kaiser, students’ parents stepped up to the plate, playing a key role in pulling the project together. They formed committees responsible for various aspects of the plan – from recruiting and feeding volunteers, to babysitting services and public relations.

It all culminated in a one-day build in June when about 250 volunteers came together in support of the school and its students.

“It was amazing,” Kaiser said. “There was great participation by students, and by parents who don’t often volunteer for school projects. Because our build day was a Saturday, we were able to attract parents whose work schedules limit their ability to volunteer. We were sore the next day, but it was well worth it!”

The new playground now features a zip line, rock climbing wall and two GaGa ball pits – thanks to student input – and other equipment to encourage students to engage in physical activity. There’s even an outdoor “classroom” for use by teachers and students.

Additional funding was raised – with support from UPS, Cleveland City Council and others in the community – to build a fence around the school’s property.

ESPN did a story about the Old Brooklyn playground project that aired during the All Star Game hosted by the City of Cleveland.

“Apparently there’s some truth to ‘if you build it, they will come,” Kaiser said. “We had great turnout for the build, and our enrollment has increased in the new school year.”

“You had to be there to really appreciate how amazing our build day was – it was a real community effort,” she continued. “Our students are thrilled with their new playground, and we hope to cultivate relationships with our new partners.”