By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
After two years, Henderson Ward Stewart’s GoPlay playground is nearly complete after the finishing touches were put on an all-weather pavilion, which will be used as an outdoor classroom.
The pavilion is the last major project for the GoPlay initiative at the Henderson Ward Stewart campus.
“I’m just absolutely thrilled. It’s a great thing to see it all completed in such a short time,” Heather Carson, founder of GoPlay said. “It’s very gratifying to see how many people were able to help out. This whole thing is just a tangible symbol for the celebration of play.”
The GoPlay initiative started in 2009 as an effort to create learning opportunities outside the classroom for students at Henderson Intermediate and Ward Stewart Elementary. The project initially aimed to provide new playground equipment for the students, but quickly grew to include a number of other projects, including a garden, a confidence course and an outdoor classroom. The space is meant to encourage outdoor play and exploration.
The entire project was a collaboration between parents, the school district and a number of local organizations and businesses.
“Honestly, it would not have happened without (assistant superintendent) Dr. Gonsoulin. From the beginning, he was the administrator who helped clear the path for the initiative,” Carson said. “It’s been such a collaborative effort, all the enthusiasm and leadership from the PTA is what has made it such a success.”
Gonsoulin agreed that the huge project wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the community, especially groups like the Henderson Ward Stewart PTA.
“We’re just very excited. GoPlay has made it a very inviting environment for both the students and the community, which is what we wanted the initiative to be all about,” he said.
The PTA donated $20,000 to GoPlay for the pavilion. The organization’s efforts helped make the final step of the project possible.
“The big fundraiser was five dollar boxes of chocolate that the kids sold last year,” Katy Richey, former co-president of the PTA said. “It was a total group effort. The kids and parents put in a lot of effort. It was their hard work that helped make this become a reality.”
Teachers from Henderson Ward Stewart will be able to use the pavilion as a classroom to help teach a variety of subjects in innovative and creative ways.
“Thank you to all the kids and parents who helped make this possible,” Richey said.
Carson said she hopes to hold a GoPlay ribbon cutting soon to mark the completion of the project. For more information about the GoPlay initiative, visit http://www/goplaykids.org .