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It takes a community to build a playground

In a modern version of an old-time barn raising, community members of all ages came together last weekend to build a playground together. The new Washington Elementary School playground in Cloquet is the culmination of three years of fundraising,...

One, two, three, ... lift!
Volunteer workers lift the new tire swing frame into place during the Washington Elementary School community playground build last weekend. Kandi Chalberg/For the Pine Journal

In a modern version of an old-time barn raising, community members of all ages came together last weekend to build a playground together.

The new Washington Elementary School playground in Cloquet is the culmination of three years of fundraising, meetings and lots of planning, plus a $25,000 loan from the school district so the school would no longer have to piecemeal its playground project. Still, the final build wouldn't have happened without volunteer labor and lots of donations (in-kind and monetary) from area businesses and the city of Cloquet.

"Roving reporters" Sydney Hall and Montana Solomon, both fifth-graders at Washington, got the scoop on the new playground from school staff, volunteers and kids.

Q: What prompted the need for new playground equipment?

Heather Meyen, PIE co-chair: "We wanted to meet the American Disability Act so that kids with disabilities could come out and play on the playground and also we would have new, safer equipment and the kids are going to have fun because it's different kinds of equipment."

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Q: Who was in charge of research and planning of this project?

Bridget Schrier, Playground Initiator: "The PIE group has been a really big part of deciding what we put out here, but in the planning part of the project, we have had our playground supervisors, the ladies who are out here when you are at recess. Our janitors, our PE teachers, parents, principal and myself have all been a part of coming up with just the right kind of things. Like the fusion thing right here - we had a lot of input from kids and everybody about what parts we wanted in there."

Q: Is there anything else you would like the community to know?

Schrier: "That we are really excited to offer - not just to our school but the community - a really nice place for all of our kids to play. When we're done with this playground, it's going to look beautiful and it's going to be a much safer place and much more handicapped accessible place than we've been in the past. This is an exciting thing for our community and our school."

According to Schrier, the playground build took six days. Bulldozers rolled in for site preparation work from Tuesday through Thursday, volunteers started putting together equipment on Friday and Saturday and Sunday was spent on site cleanup.

Although there is a little work left to do on the new playground because some equipment didn't arrive in a timely fashion, kids came back to school after the long weekend to a brand new playground.

What part of the new playground do you think will be the biggest attraction for the kids, we asked our roving reporters.

"Well, I think either the X Factor - it like moves around and there can be so many different kids on it at one time," Solomon said. "And I think the Fusion - that's like a net thing you can climb up. It towers over every human, I guess you could say that."

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"I think that the whole swing process over there will be a huge attraction because it has the whole rocket thing that is sort of like a teeter totter," Hall said. "One person is on each side and it's smaller. While one person is rocking down, the other is rocking up. It is very fun."

Montana agreed.

"The thing about the rocket? If someone jumps off, you won't fall back," she said.

Editor's note: The uncut Solomon/Hall Q-and-A is attached to the online version of this story at www.pinejournal.com , along with a photo gallery from the community playground build.

Big dig
Washington Elementary kindergarten teacher and volunteer Theresa Parenteau steps outside of her usual job duties to dig a big hole for some new playground equipment. Kandi Chalberg/For the Pine Journal

Related Topics: CLOQUETEDUCATION
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