Building a playground: FEA, FCCLA members lead project benefiting Eugene Ware Elementary

Caitlin Holland, Editor-in-chief

The one thing senior Carly Thompson remembers most about Eugene Ware Elementary School in Kansas City, Kan. is its playground.
Or, its lack of one.
Thompson visited the school during an Out-of-County Experience trip the Practicum in Teacher Education students take each year. During the student’s break period at Eugene Ware, Thompson and senior Amory Consley met with the school principal. On the way to her office, they glanced outside.
The playground they saw consisted of one small structure without a slide or monkey bars, a basketball goal without a net or rim and tetherball poles without tetherballs — all coated in markings, courtesy of local gangs.
“We saw their playground, which isn’t really much of a playground,” Thompson said. “It’s not much of anything. There’s a bunch of graffiti and gang tagging.”
Eugene Ware technology teacher Tessa Lyman, daughter of BV teacher and Future Educators of America sponsor Donna DeHart, said kids at Eugene Ware don’t enjoy going to recess.
“They always tell me the playground is boring and there’s nothing to do out there,” Lyman said. “We have a couple recess balls, so they’ll kick those back and forth, or just run and walk around. They don’t play on the equipment a whole lot.”
Thompson and the rest of the FEA members have a goal to raise $10,000 for a brand new playground for the kids at Eugene Ware.
The group started fundraising on Sept. 13, selling Project Playground T-shirts and wristbands at lunch. The following week, students purchased raffle tickets at lunch for $1. Seventy-five students will be chosen from the raffle to actually help build the playground in the spring.
Thompson said the reason the group wants to take on the ambitious project is simple ­— every child loves recess and deserves to have a fun, outside environment.
“Realistically they have a blacktop,” she said. “They don’t have anything to work with or play on.”
While meeting with the principal, Thompson discussed the differences between the Kansas City, Kan., School District and Blue Valley.
“She talked about the middle schools in the area,” Thompson said. “They have to actually have metal detectors in the school. They’re actually searched when they come into school — its not what you would expect.”
Lyman said the biggest difference between elementary students in BV schools and Eugene Ware is the amount of background knowledge students bring to school. She said teaching students without a lot of life experiences changes the game completely.
“They don’t have prior knowledge of certain things,” Lyman said. “When you go into a Blue Valley classroom and talk about a boat pulling into a harbor, they can visualize it. [Students at Eugene Ware] don’t have any idea of what a harbor is or what it looks like, so I have to teach all of that before we can even get into a lesson. You take advantage of the things you think they should know, and sometimes they don’t really know it.”
Thompson said she hopes the kids will see the success of the project and realize their potential to make a difference.
“Maybe doing this for them will inspire them to do something for someone else,” she said. “It’ll just be a positive impact in their lives and make a difference for them.”
DeHart said she brought the students to Eugene Ware because she wanted them to get the experience of teaching outside the BV district.
“Kids are kids,” DeHart said. “But what my daughter’s second graders have been exposed to is much different than what they have been exposed to here. It’s just very different than our district. There’s much less parental involvement there and much less special services for special needs kids.”
DeHart said playtime is crucial for elementary-aged students to develop creativity.
“Play is the work of children,” she said. “One thing builds upon another and another. If they don’t have the opportunity for play, then sometimes things don’t connect in their brains. Play is important, and I don’t think our children get enough of it.”
Lyman said she can already visualize her students’ reactions to a brand new playground behind Eugene Ware Elementary.
“I think they would be really, really surprised and excited to have new equipment to play on,” she said. “They would really love it.”