Princeton receives new, inclusive playground
Part of initiative to foster giving back to the community
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.