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MLK service day

January 18, 2011

People all over the community will be rolling up their sleeves today for the annual service celebration commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Students, teachers and volunteers at Ward Stewart Elementary got a jump start on the service Friday as they continued working on Project GoPlay.
“We wanted to have a day of service... We decided to kick off our MLK Day Friday so the students could take part,” teacher Tammy Gammill said. “This gets us one step closer to the overall goal of GoPlay.”
GoPlay was an idea that originated in 2009 by parent Heather Carson as a way to integrate education and the outdoors. What started with a state-of-the-art playground, which was completed in the July 2010, has morphed into a complete make over of the Henderson Ward Stewart campus, which encompasses not only the play ground, but it is also working towards the completion of a confidence course and discovery path.
With the help of more than 50 teacher, parent and community volunteers and the SPROUTS grant, Project GoPlay has been allowed to grow and evolve into a project that will help get children outdoors while they learn.
“It is difficult to express the level of gratitude I feel for the educators, students, parents, and community volunteers who have spent time on the GoPlay project,” Carson said. “We are fortunate to have so many caring individuals who not only say they support local schools, but also roll up their sleeves and jump in to help.”
“This is a local project. It’s Starkville, our community. Henderson Ward Stewart teacher volunteers are writing curriculum, Mississippi State University faculty and student volunteers are creating outdoor learning stations, community volunteers are cleaning up planting beds, and local businesses are sharing expertise to make the Discovery Zone a reality. Volunteers drive the GoPlay Initiative,” Carson added.
Friday, students planted daffodil bulbs with the help of Lee Shuffield and Shuff Landscape, Inc. employee volunteers. The landscaping group has helped in many landscaping aspects like building planters and clearing over-grown vegetation along the discovery path.
“I talked to my team, and they have the same desires I do about helping education, and they wanted to go out and volunteer some help and enjoy spending time doing something worth while,” Shuffield said.
Ward Stewart third grade teacher Tabitha Shuffield and her class teamed up with the landscapers to help beautify campus by planting the bulbs.
The landscapers helped dig holes and showed the students the proper way to plant the daffodil bulbs so they will bloom in the spring.
The service will continue Monday with the installation of rain barrels for the wetlands node of the discovery path and for irrigation. Kenny Langley, Mississippi University for Women science enrichment coordinator; Toby Gray, parent volunteer with children two at HWS who has been a part of the project from the beginning and Heather Carson will be installing the rain barrels.
Langley, with his background in landscape architecture and education, heard of Carson’s project and need for volunteers and felt he was a good fit for the project.
“I’m just a big proponent of volunteering and using gifts and talents to help the community, and I don’t see a better place to do that than education,” Langley said. “I feel like everyone should spend some hours a week volunteering in their community.”
He has also been very involved in the curriculum side of the discovery path that will host seven nodes, which stand for the seven continents: North America will house the wetland node, Africa will teach children about the Savannah, Europe will educate children about deciduous forests and Chaparral, South America will be the rainforest, Australia is hot desert and Antarctica will be the frozen desert.
Langley has been working to provide a cross-curriculum lesson for teachers to use with each node that spans the core subjects like math, science, literature and English. The curriculum will be available for all teachers to use when they take their classes through the discovery path.
“We’ve developed an idea, and now we’ve started to push forward on the wetland zone,” Langley said. “There is a lot of things going on in wetlands that hasn’t been understood. We want to help kids understand the water cycle and how the wetlands impact the environment.”
The rain barrels were donated by Cody Smith, a Mississippi State Day One Leadership freshman, and his Day One team. The Day Oners have been involved with the GoPlay all semester, particularly with manual labor.
“We did a lot of landscaping for sure. We changed an almost barren, water-cogged drain into a wetland — almost. We made a wetland with water and rocks, and we’re working on a bridge,” Smith said. “It’s definitely rewarding being a part of something like that. I was proud of my group with how hard they worked with all the manual labor. When we got done, my team had a sense of fulfillment.”
To find out more about GoPlay, volunteer opportunities and upcoming projects, visit

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