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Coal City fourth grade looks to add playground equipment

Betsy Cowherd's fourth grade students at Coal City Intermediate School stand in the area they've picked out for a new playground.
Betsy Cowherd's fourth grade students at Coal City Intermediate School stand in the area they've picked out for a new playground.

COAL CITY – Fourth-grade students at Coal City Intermediate School think recess could be a lot more fun if they had more playground equipment to play on. They took that thought and started devising a plan.

“We all think we don’t have enough equipment, and we have a lot of empty space,” student Amanda Albrecht said Friday.

Teacher Betsy Cowherd decided it would be a good project for the students to learn about real-life business, and the students in her Talented and Gifted class went to work to see how they could make their dream a reality.

“It really aligned with common core,” Cowherd said in a presentation Wednesday to the Coal City Community Unit School District 1 school board. “It’s all about problem solving, if one way doesn’t work, how do you go about it?”

Superintendent Kent Bugg told the board it’s not enough for kids to be able to do math. They have to learn to apply it to a real situation.

Student Justin Greiner said Friday they tried to come up with ideas that could offer the playground they wanted.

Cowherd and her students started the project, and parents April Albrecht, Teri Gomien and Erica Sears stepped in to help.

The kids started by creating business names, and after several ideas were presented they decided to go with “Miner Fun Builders.”

The students took the year-long project and presented it to the Board of Education at their meeting in hopes of getting some support on the project they want to make a reality.

As with any project, things didn’t always go smoothly.

“We used Google Docs to make the presentation and time line to present to the board,” student Molly Stiles said. “It wasn’t hard, but it was annoying when people deleted your stuff [in Google Docs].”

The students measured the area and found they needed to configure equipment to fit in a 48 foot by 72 foot area.

They chose several options of equipment and completed surveys to see what other students wanted in a playground.

“We created a survey to find out if other students had the same opinion as ours,” student Max Tucker said Friday. “We wanted to see what they look for in a playground and what they like.”

The students said the playground wouldn’t just benefit those who attend the school, but would also be played on when people were at the property for events such as baseball and soccer.

As they started looking at how to fund the project last fall, another unexpected thing happened – a tornado hit Diamond and affected students at their school and the community as a whole.

Collectively they decided they couldn’t fundraise at that time, because they wouldn’t ask people to donate money to their project when their own homes were destroyed.

“The sad thing is, we don’t have enough money,” student Julianna Gomien said.

Bugg said the board didn’t have a discussion during the meeting, but would like to see the potential cost and fundraising plan to see if members could partner with the students.

As the school year is drawing to a close, the time needed to complete the next steps is running out, but the students don’t plan to let that stop them.

“Our project might continue next year,” student Aiden Hansen said. “Because we don’t want to leave here and let it just sit.”

The students said physical exercise makes children learn more, so they want future students of their school to get that benefit.

Student Emma Kenney said even if it doesn’t happen this year – or even next school year – she and her classmates would like to see the project completed eventually.

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