Cedar Point Elementary School fifth-grade engineers find solutions to “Save the Playground”
Posted on 04/24/2019
Image: students showing their projects to panelists, Text: Fifth-grade engineers work to Save the Playground

When students and teachers alike noticed erosion causing mud and holes on their playground at Cedar Point Elementary, fifth-grade teachers Lara Warren and Melissa Boyle, along with STEAM teacher Adair Solomon, challenged students to come up with solutions.

Solomon explained, “We've always struggled with erosion and lots of mud and holes on our upper playground here at Cedar Point.  During a Project Based Learning (PBL) meeting with the fifth-grade team at the beginning of the school year, we decided to incorporate a real-life problem close to home by creating the ‘Save Our Playground’ PBL.”

This year-long plan incorporates learning objectives across the curriculum and is centered around the Science SOL. In September, students began the project by observing and photographing the erosion they found on the playground. From there, students participated in erosion and water filtration labs, as well as worked on art projects depicting different soils and erosion. By the time winter break arrived, students had begun their persuasive letters asking for attention to their erosion problem. In February, students used their research and knowledge from the previous months to create and build models showing their proposed solutions to stop the playground erosion.

All of the models were ready for display, the persuasive letters were complete, and students were ready to present their findings to a panel for discussion on March 25.

The panel was comprised of a PWCS safety specialist from the Office of Risk Management, a PWCS program specialist from the Office of Communications, the owner and designer of a landscaping company, and a civil engineer. Students warmly welcomed panelists to their school prior to a tour of the playground, where students took the time to explain where the erosion could be seen and why they felt it was problematic. Panelists were then ushered through a hall in which erosion-related artwork was on exhibit before going to the STEAM room, where the models and persuasive essays were displayed. Panelists read through the essays and reviewed the models, choosing which models they would like to hear more about. The student engineers of the chosen models explained their solutions in detail as panelists listened, offered advice, and answered questions.

The panel discussion was enjoyed both students and panelists. Panelist and PWCS Safety Specialist Jim Honeycutt said, “I really enjoyed the panel discussion and the enthusiasm the students exhibited with the questions about erosion and the environment.”

Students will continue to refine their solutions throughout the spring and hope to begin building and installing some of their ideas before the school year ends.

April 22-26 is Playground Safety Week. Battling erosion is an important factor for a safe playground for students. Students researching and being actively involved in designing a solution is Positively PWCS!