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Kids design, build their own playground (video)

By Carolina Astrain
June 8, 2013 at 1:08 a.m.
Updated June 9, 2013 at 1:09 a.m.

Haley Foeh, a sixth-grader at Nursery Elementary School, demonstrates one of their "Learning Center" projects in which water flows through a maze of multiple plastic bottles and gutter materials in a zigzag design.

It was once a place considered to be an eyesore.

Now, the students at Nursery Elementary School see the patch of grass as a place of wonderment and discovery.

As part of the school's fifth-grade Gifted and Talented program, principal Suzanne Bell suggested in January that the students design and construct their own interactive, educational playground.

Haley Foeh, Natalie Guajardo, Gavino Maldonado, Kesli Pratka and Destinee Ross - all 11-year-old fifth-graders - worked on designing the playground.

"Before, there was nothing here; you didn't even want to look at it," Destinee said. "Now, everybody can't stop looking."

The outdoor learning center is made up of a a sensory garden; weather, water and ball run wall;, a series of dangling pans and a wooden multicolored xylophone.

Gavino, the sole male in the group, served as the group's mathematician.

"I learned how to work with others and lots of other math problems," Gavino said.

The school's program coordinator, Rhonda Hooper, said the construction of the learning center would have not been possible without the support of parents.

She works with the students once a week for an hour and a half each Thursday morning.

The Nursery Parent Teacher Organization, or PTO, donated $500 to $600 in materials to the project, Hooper said.

"We need to do more projects at school with the parents getting involved," Hooper said.

Kesli's father, an area machinist, donated pieces of wood and some labor to the project.

"It's just amazing how you can just think of something and it comes alive," Kesli said. "This has really helped me develop a stronger sense of responsibility."

Region III GT advanced academic specialist Mary Lea Pfenninger smiled at the students as they proudly showed off their work.

"It's just amazing," Pfenninger said. "And you see the confidence they've gained in their faces."

The outdoor learning center will count toward a Texas Performance Standard Project, which is not required to accomplish through law but is highly recommended, Pfenninger said.

"This project has shown me that I'm capable of doing something big," Natalie said. "It's also helped me work on my teamwork."



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