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Bermudian third graders use their expertise to SOAR to new playground

Bermudian Springs Elementary School needs a new playground, and the third-grade “SOAR Ambassadors” have already planned what they hope to see when the project is complete. The children shared their design with the Bermudian Springs school board on Tuesday evening.

In addition to designing playgrounds, the 12 members of the SOAR team are tasked with engaging in positive behavior in school (Staying safe – Owning your actions – Always being responsible – and Respecting everyone).

Ethan Sentz, assistant principal of Bermudian Springs Elementary, and David Morning, a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) teacher for grades 3-6, introduced the children to the board.

Sentz said the SOAR students were “almost like a student council and represent our student body in a positive way.”

The children are experts on fun playground equipment, so school leaders consulted them.

“When we were tasked with getting a new playground, this was kind of our first go-to of the perfect people to ask since they’re the ones that use it and their ideas matter the most in this regard,” said Sentz.

Morning said contributing ideas for the playground let the children apply their skills to a project.

“Mr. Sentz came to me with this idea that we wanted to do something more real world, so this idea of STEAM and this idea of engineering designing, allowing the students to design, ask questions, visualize what it is they would like to do,” Morning said. “Some of our steps in our process include just this idea of a needs/want/wishes, and then after they had some needs, wants and wishes they asked some questions.”

The children followed a process to arrive at their final design.

“They created a vision board, which they were able to look through a lot of different playground catalogs that our vendor uses to help design his playground,” Morning said. “So it was a great opportunity for our students and we were super excited to see their excitement through this process.”

The board watched a video of the children explaining the problem – students need a new playground since the large red slide is unsafe – as well as a breakdown of what they wanted and needed. Some needs included safety rails and steps, while wants included monkey bars and a rock wall. The kids added items such as a merry go round and a zipline to their wish list.

In the video, the children named their project budget, the age range for the playground and the minimum number of children it needed to accommodate at any given time as factors they had to consider.

The video summarized the children’s evaluations of proposed designs and changes they suggested to better match their list of desired features.


According to the video, the new playground will be added this summer.

“I think that opportunity for them to have authentic learning is crucial, especially at such a young age, so I want to thank their parents for their participation,” Sentz said.

Some board members directed questions to the four students present at the meeting, asking what they were most looking forward to having on the playground and what they would call the new playground.

Public comment

One individual approached the board during the time for public comment saying he had heard that there has been “in the middle school, maybe teachers handing out LGBTQ flags.”

The speaker said he heard about it secondhand and wanted to voice his concerns if the story was true.

Former board member Jennifer Zerfing also addressed the board. She praised specific teachers, pointing out the skills and qualities that make them assets to the district.

Zerfing also took time to recognize students.

“Many of them are genuinely interested in promoting unity in our district,” Zerfing said. “They are looking around the world and deciding that they don’t want to live in a world without– that they want to live in a world without discrimination. I’d like to give a shoutout to the students who are standing up for others. It takes courage to evaluate ourselves and identify implicit biases that we might not even know that we have. These students who strive for unity and the teachers who set an example of how to treat everyone with respect and kindness give me hope for the future.”

The board approved the time and date for the graduation ceremony. It will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, May 27 at the high school stadium, with a rain date of 8:30 a.m. Saturday, May 28.

The next regular board meeting will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 10 in the high school auditorium. Meetings are also livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.

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Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist. She was a staff newspaper reporter for five years before becoming a freelancer in 2017. She has written on crime, environmental issues, severe weather events, local and regional government and more.

You can visit her website at ImariJournal.com.

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