Whigham Elementary students help design park’s playground

The Whigham Elementary School design team

A number of students at Whigham Elementary School recently had an opportunity to help design a playground at Cutler Bay’s Lakes by the Bay Park, which opened on Dec. 3 and is located next to the school.

Terry Long, vice chair of the Parks and Recreation Citizen Advisory Committee, described what happened.

“On Friday, Dec. 10, Cutler Bay Parks and Recreation director Alan Ricke hosted a Design Day with students of Edward Whigham Elementary grades kindergarten through fifth grade for a new KaBOOM! playground in the park,” Long said. “Debbie Levine of Landscape Structures Inc. provided catalogs of playground equipment and the students chose and drew their favorites. Committee liaison [Cutler Bay Councilmember] Peggy Bell, member Jean Tong Noon, and I provided support, along with Whigham art teacher Yamel Molerio and media specialist Jacqueline Vila.”

KaBOOM! is a national non-profit organization dedicated to creating great play spaces through the participation and leadership of communities.

“The children helped us to brainstorm playground ideas and equipment, then they voted on the kinds of equipment that they would like to see on their playground,” Ricke said. “We were very happy to have the help of these students, since it will be more their playground than it will be ours.

“They had very good ideas, and kept in mind that the playground needs to be safe and be able to accommodate a variety of children ranging from 2 to 12 years old, including children with special needs.”

Art teacher Molerio coordinated the classroom side of the project.

“We made a Design Your Dream Playground for the students at Whigham,” Molerio said. “Afterwards, I chose the best one out of each class. They were all invited to attend a meeting with the Cutler Bay parks people, Commissioner Peggy Bell and the company that is designing the playground set. Each student was again asked to design a playground after seeing the playground booklets from the company. The winner was Elizabeth Cuevas, a fourth grader.”

Ricke said that they will be recruiting volunteers to help assemble the equipment to save on costs and stretch their dollars. “Our Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee will be heavily involved in the recruitment of volunteers as well as the coordination of the project,” Ricke said. “We will begin recruiting volunteers at the third annual Chili Day in Cutler Bay on Jan. 7 at Cutler Ridge Park. We anticipate that the playground build day will take place in the spring of 2012.”

Councilmember Bell said that the project is similar to the KaBOOM! playground installed last spring at Gulfstream Elementary School, and that they will definitely need volunteers.

“It really took a village, or should I say a town! People really rallied for that cause,” Bell said. “The kids at Whigham are very excited and participated by telling us what they would like in a playground. We received some great ideas.

“In addition to the sweat equity from volunteers, we are hoping for more grants and participation from the business community,” Bell said. “KaBOOM! gave us $15,000. The less money the town will have to spend on the playground, the more we will have to fulfill a wish of our teens.

“Sometime back the town held a ‘youth summit’ and the kids unanimously voted for a skate park. I am hoping we can save some of the money budgeted for the playground and use it for this activity.”

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