Archive for Thursday, February 1, 2007

Teachers to attend playground workshop

February 1, 2007

Mary Alice Schroeger says playgrounds provide more than just a stimulating place for children to let loose: They also anchor neighborhoods.

"When people choose where they're going to live - if you have small children - you look at where they're going to play," said Schroeger, director of the Lansing Education Foundational Fund and a mother of three.

Schroeger wants the playground at the new elementary school on West Mary Street to serve the community, so she's exploring the ins and outs of playgrounds, including how to build and fund them.

To assist with her research, Schroeger, who also is a teacher at Lansing High School, will travel to New Orleans this month to attend a University of Play workshop with Vickie Kelly, a kindergarten teacher at Lansing Elementary School.

"We're going to look for organizations that will help with the purchase of equipment," Schroeger said. "When you think about children and how they grow, playgrounds are pretty important places. We need to make the playground at Lansing Elementary School the best we can make it."

At the Lansing School Board's monthly meeting Jan. 16, the board authorized $972 of travel costs to pay for the trip, which is partially funded by a scholarship from conference organizers.

Lansing schools superintendent Randal Bagby said the budget for the construction of the new school does not contain money for playground equipment.

"We always planned on moving the extra equipment over and writing grants," Bagby said, adding that capital outlay funds might provide additional funding.

However, Bagby said, the board has yet to determine how the existing elementary school will be used after the new school opens, projected for January 2008.

One option the board has considered is dedicating the building to preschool use. In that case, he said, some equipment likely would remain at the existing school.

Kelly said she saw the need early on to explore a variety of funding options when she learned a single piece of playground equipment could cost as much as $10,000.

"I feel very passionate about fitness," she said. "It makes you feel good about yourself. When you feel good about yourself, you perform better.

"Playground equipment is so essential in that kids cannot sit at a desk six or seven hours a day and perform at the best of their abilities. Playground equipment promotes fitness."

To that end, Kelly launched the inaugural Lansing Fun Run in April 2006 on Center Drive and West Mary Street. It raised $1,200 for playground equipment.

The second annual Lansing Fun Run, which includes a 5K run and a one-mile walking course, will begin at 8 a.m. April 15.

Kelly said she's looking for sponsors and volunteers. Registration fees are still being finalized, but the event will again be open to all ages and include options for T-shirts and small-group and individual registrations.

A contest at Lansing Intermediate School later this month will choose the T-shirt design.

A realistic fundraising goal for this year's run, Kelly said, would be to double last year's amount.

"I know that we will be competing with runs in the area," she said. "I don't want to set my sights too low. I'd love it if we could buy a piece of equipment."

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