I Love It When A Plan Comes Together…

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Mt. Pleasant kindergarten teacher Tracey Lewis briefs the volunteers on the plan for the day

Leave it to a team of educators to fill every possible space with learning opportunities. When construction completed on Mount Pleasant Elementary, the district touted the larger classrooms, integrated technology, increased security, and improved learning opportunities that the new building presented. One aspect that the school also provided was a large courtyard in between learning pods, but until recently those courtyards merely served as a shortcut between different areas of the building during good weather.

The members of the K-1 pod at Mount Pleasant, led by kindergarten teacher Tracey Lewis, saw this courtyard as an opportunity. There was enough space for an outdoor learning area complete with sensory activities, games, art space, and room for little bodies to run out their youthful energy before returning to classroom activities.

As with every community project, the issue was funding; you can fill the area with whatever you can afford. The teachers soon found that Lancaster has no shortage of charitable organizations, businesses, and people.

“We started contacting people we knew in town, just as a shot-in-the-dark to see if we would be able to get some cool stuff for the kids,” explained Lewis.

“I had no idea that people would be as generous as they proved to be. It’s overwhelming and inspiring, and it says a lot about how great this community is.”

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Volunteers gather and discuss the work ahead of them

A phone call here, an email there, a meeting over coffee from time to time, ideas both grand and managable shared back and forth… the news spread quickly. Soon offers started rolling in:

Victory Hill Church built giant wooden sand and gravel boxes, complete with covers.

A team from Lancaster Vineyard Church built picnic tables.

Standing Stone Bank filled the sand and gravel boxes, provided toys, purchased umbrellas for the picnic tables, and material to make outdoor art easels.

The Rotary Club of Lancaster-Sherman donated a storage shed with shelving.

Lancaster Rotary donated landscape fabric and gravel for the picnic area.

Lancaster Greenhouse gave buckets of rocks for a painted rock art project.

Not to mention the work put in by school district employees off-the-clock (and their families)…

“Now here we had all of this great stuff for the courtyard, and we needed to have a set day to get it all together,” Lewis added. “We had all these great donations, but now we were asking people to give their time and energy to this project.”

The morning of Saturday, October 21 started off chilly, but layered Lancasterians began showing up as early as 8:00 AM to get to work.

Mt. Pleasant principal Shannon Burke, who was instrumental in gaining support for the project, palmed a mug of coffee.

“I hope you’re ready to get your hands dirty,” she said between sips.

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Sherman Rotary members Andy Parker, Amanda Everitt, Kurt Lape, and Bryan Everitt *photo courtesy Amanda Everitt

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Sherman Rotary member Kate Bruce and her son Carter prepare rocks for the painted rock art project. *photo courtesy Amanda Everitt

Members of Sherman Rotary, Standing Stone Bank, Mt. Pleasant PTO and Lancaster City Schools dove in immediately.

Fueled by donuts, coffee, and some home-baked pumpkin muffins courtesy of Mt. Pleasant assistant principal Erin Pennington, the volunteers sent grass, gravel, paint, and hardware flying. When the dust cleared, what was once patches of grass divided by sidewalk became a fully-stocked learning area that is as educational as it is fun.

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Sherman Rotary members Rosemary Hajost, Keely Pearce, and Kate Bruce *photo courtesy Amanda Everitt

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Sherman Rotary member Devon Naim shows you can work AND pose at the same time. *photo courtesy Amanda Everitt

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LCS superintendent Steve Wigton, Mt. Pleasant Title 1 teacher Beth Wigton and newly-minted Destination Downtown Lancaster director Amanda Everitt discuss the project

“I’m so happy with how everything turned out. Thanks to everyone who contributed we now have this awesome outdoor area to supplement the lessons we’re teaching inside,” Lewis said. “These are five-, six-, and seven-year-old kids in the K-1 pod. They work their little tails off in the classroom, and they deserve a space like this for play-based learning.”

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Everitt and Mt. Pleasant principal Shannon Burke *photo courtesy Amanda Everitt

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Picnic tables donated and assembled by Lancaster Vineyard with umbrellas from Standing Stone Bank and landscaping provided by Lancaster Rotary.

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Soon-to-be-filled planter boxes made with wood donated by Jason Reeves

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The outdoor storage shed donated and built by Sherman Rotary

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Outdoor easels donated by Standing Stone Bank, assembled by Gary Mader, and painted by members of Sherman Rotary

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The real work was being done in the sandbox, which was built by Victory Hill Church and filled by Standing Stone Bank

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