School Principals Build Dream Playground at Stonehurst Hills Elementary in Upper Darby, PA
Aaronda Beauford pinched herself the morning of July 8. The Stonehurst Hills Elementary School principal watched more than 115 fellow principals from across the United States build her school’s new playground. Alongside school staff, students’ parents and community members, the industrious crew completed nine other beautification projects before dinnertime.
“Our group brought me to tears,” recalls Aaronda. “You could feel the energy on the playground. I’m from the South and I’m a hugger, so I made everyone know how grateful we were.”
The principals were in Philadelphia for the National Association of Elementary School Principals’ (NAESP) 2017 Conference – and the Stonehurst Hills team and Upper Darby School District wanted to make their experience very memorable.
“We like to do things differently,” says Aaronda. “We kicked off the community-build day with a light breakfast, then also provided lunch, along with live entertainment from current and former students to show our appreciation.”
The community build playground was made possible by a $30,000 donation from Landscape Structures (LSI) in play equipment. For the past nine years, LSI has partnered with the NAESP to build a playground at a deserving elementary school.
In the day-to-day of running a successful elementary school, Aaronda and her staff work hard to strengthen community and business partnerships, giving them access to many resources and talents. “We’re always open to something new,” explains Aaronda.
Over the past four years, her dream was to have a new playground built on campus. “When I arrived at Stonehurst, I observed our community, students, parents, teachers, and asked myself, ‘What’s my dream for them?’”
“Among many needs, one was a new playground,” Aaronda explains. “Our current one was damaged and needed TLC. How people value the community is illustrated by the state of that community’s playground. Ours needed to be better. It’s also a gathering place for local resident’s families after school hours.”
With the help of NAESP and Landscapes Structures, Aaronda worked directly with General Recreation’s Andy Cush. General Recreation made an in-kind donation in designing, organizing and supervising the playground build.
“Andy was great to work with,” shares Aaronda. “He’s driven and goal-oriented, yet also flexible. I knew with him we were going to get things done.”
Andy helped Aaronda and her team with design, as well as organized and supervised the community-build.
Stonehurst Hills wanted the new playground decked out in the school colors of gold and blue and to supplement the existing structures, which were also repaired. “We wanted the new structure to be accessible and challenging with new features, like climbing that we don’t have on our existing equipment” Aaronda adds.
The playground was designed for children ages 5 to 12. It includes Landscape Structures’ new GeoPlex™ climbing panels, ground-level climbers, overhead ladders, bridges and balancing activities. The design is also unique in that the play events are accessible at ground level, accessible to all students regardless of their abilities.
The school hosted the playground’s ribbon cutting ceremony on August 23.