Prince­ton re­ceives new, in­clu­sive play­ground

Part of ini­tia­tive to foster giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES jclinkscales@somd­

The Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ele­men­tary School Prin­ci­pals (NAESP) has cho­sen Prince­ton Ele­men­tary School as this year’s re­cip­i­ent for its eighth an­nual Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Day.

More than 60 NAESP ele­men­tary- and mid­dle school-level prin­ci­pals from around the na­tion gath­ered at the school Tues­day in Suit­land to help other vol­un­teers from Sparks@Play LLC and Hunt Val­ley Con­trac­tors Inc. build a new Smart Play: Venti play­ground. The project — part of NAESP’s 2016 Best Prac­tices for Bet­ter Schools An­nual Con­fer­ence and Ex­po­si­tion which be­gan July 6 and will con­tinue through July 8 at the Na­tional Har­bor — is spon­sored by NAESP and Land­scape Struc­tures, a play­ground equip­ment man­u­fac­turer and corporate part­ner, ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease from Prince Ge­orge’s County Pub­lic Schools.

“We were con­tacted by NAESP and they asked us if we would be will­ing to par­tic­i­pate in the project,” Prince­ton Ele­men­tary Princi- pal HeNina Bunch said in an in­ter­view. “They told us that we would re­ceive a new play­ground that will be do­nated and of course, we were all in. … I pre­sented it to our par­ents and our lead­er­ship team and we just started with the project.”

The new play­ground will fea­ture nets, slides, belts and climbers that help pro­mote the phys­i­cal devel­op­ment, strate­gic think­ing and so­cial skills of chil­dren ages 5 to 12. It is also ADA com­pli­ant and in­clu­sive of all chil­dren re­gard­less of their abil­i­ties, the press re­lease noted.

Bunch said all stu­dents de­serve a safe and stim­u­lat­ing en­vi­ron­ment to learn and play. She is not only hon­ored that her school was cho­sen, but to have prin­ci­pals na­tion­wide come to­gether to give back to the lo­cal com­mu­nity, es­pe­cially in a Ti­tle I neigh­bor­hood, as well, she said.

“These in­di­vid­u­als here signed up to par­tic­i­pate and ac­tu­ally build this play­ground for us here at Prince­ton so we’re re­ally ex­cited,”

Bunch said. “They just de­cided that they wanted to give back to the com­mu­nity and en­sure that our stu­dents are able to have a safe and struc­tured en­vi­ron­ment for them to play out­side.”

Founded in 1921, NAESP is a pro­fes­sional or­ga­ni­za­tion serv­ing ele­men­tary and mid­dle school prin­ci­pals and other ed­u­ca­tion lead­ers through­out the U.S., Canada and overseas. The as­so­ci­a­tion ad­vo­cates for the sup­port prin­ci­pals need to be suc­cess­ful 21st cen­tury lead­ers and be­lieves that the progress and well-be­ing of the in­di­vid­ual child must be at the fore­front of all ele­men­tary and mid­dle school plan­ning and op­er­a­tions, ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

“We look for Ti­tle I schools. We look for schools that may not have the in­fra­struc­ture to be able to build their own play­ground,” said NAESP Pres­i­dent Robyn M. Con­rad Hansen, prin­ci­pal of Playa del Rey Ele­men­tary School in Mesa, Ariz. “So ev­ery year, Land­scape Struc­tures chooses one [school] and then the NAESP prin­ci­pals come and help build it. We, as prin­ci­pals, feel that we’re ser­vant lead­ers.”

“We hear back from our prin­ci­pal friends about how won­der­ful it is to see the kids’ eyes the first day they come back to school and see the new play­ground,” he said. “We just choose a school that’s in need and make sure that we do some­thing that will make it spe­cial.”

“They’re go­ing to be so grate­ful,” said Mary C. Don­nelly, a NAESP vol­un­teer and prin­ci­pal at John Ruhrah Ele­men­tary/Mid­dle School in Bal­ti­more, whose school re­ceived a new play­ground in 2013. “That’s how I can de­scribe how my par­ents were be­cause we’re a Ti­tle 1 school. They were so grate­ful and they’re go­ing to love the fact that their kids can get out and have a safe place to play.”

For peo­ple like Bunch who grew up in a less for­tu­nate area while at­tend­ing ele­men­tary school in the county, she said it is very im­por­tant to pro­mote phys­i­cal devel­op­ment as nowa­days, most kids are heav­ily into their tech­nol­ogy or don’t al­ways get a chance to go out­side and play.

“I think it’s go­ing to do some­thing mirac­u­lous for the kids. The whole thing is try­ing to get the kids out­side and play more,” said Sheila Gar­ri­son, a para­pro­fes­sional at Prince­ton Ele­men­tary. “They don’t re­ally have any­where else to go ex­cept for the school play­ground. There’s not a close recre­ation cen­ter and a lot of them live in apart­ments. So it’ll be more ac­ces­si­ble where they can go and do more things here at the play­ground.”

NAESP not only helps prin­ci­pals like Bunch achieve the high­est re­sults for chil­dren, fam­i­lies, and com­mu­ni­ties, but also de­signs all of its ac­tiv­i­ties to help prin­ci­pals and learn­ing com­mu­ni­ties achieve de­sired re­sults for ev­ery child.

“Ac­tions speak louder than words. Our ac­tions today will, hope­fully for years, will res­onate and pay div­i­dends,” NAESP Pres­i­dent-Elect Steven D. Geis said. “What an ex­am­ple to set for other prin­ci­pals and ed­u­ca­tional lead­ers across the na­tion that we want oth­ers to em­u­late — that whole no­tion of giv­ing back, that ser­vice to oth­ers.”

For Hansen, who has vol­un­teered with NAESP for eight years, she said it’s that feel­ing of giv­ing back that NAESP likes to model. If the stu­dents see the adults mod­el­ing that and tak­ing care of their school, then they will fol­low suit and also have great pride in their build­ing, she said.

“Ev­ery school, ev­ery child de­serves a school that is beau­ti­ful on the in­side as well as on the out­side,” said Tasheka Green, in­struc­tional di­rec­tor for Clus­ter 11 of the county’s pub­lic school sys­tem. “We’re sup­posed to give back to our stu­dents to make it a place where they want to come and be each and ev­ery day.”

Bunch said the project speaks vol­umes to what the school is able to pro­vide for the stu­dents in ad­di­tion to the aca­demic piece that they re­ceive.

“Here, you’re go­ing to have stu­dents com­ing back to school this Au­gust and they’re go­ing to see a brand new play­ground,” Geis said. “They’re go­ing to see the land­scap­ing and love and care that was nur­tured and put into it. They’re go­ing to ap­pre­ci­ate it more and value it. Our hope and goal is that they pay it for­ward.”


Prince­ton Ele­men­tary School Prin­ci­pal HeNina Bunch, left, shoots a live video with Prince Ge­orge’s County Pub­lic Schools Se­nior Com­mu­nity Out­reach and En­gage­ment Spe­cial­ist Ran­dall Pike as a new play­ground is built at her school in Suit­land dur­ing the...

More than 60 NAESP ele­men­tary- and mid­dle-level prin­ci­pals from around the na­tion gath­ered at the school Tues­day in Suit­land to help other vol­un­teers from Sparks@Play LLC and Hunt Val­ley Con­trac­tors Inc. build a Smart Play: Venti play­ground. The new...


A Hunt Val­ley con­trac­tor and Sparks@Play mem­ber work to­gether to po­si­tion a climber in­side of a large drilled hole where the new play­ground will sit. NAESP vol­un­teers, pic­tured wear­ing blue shirts, from all across the na­tion joined in on the ef­fort as...

A cou­ple of kids help NAESP vol­un­teers clear out a gar­den in the back of the school as a small loader ma­chine is used to scoop up trees from their roots.

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