POWNAL – Fifth-graders at Pownal Elementary School won’t be around next autumn when an obstacle course they have planned for the school playground is ready, but some are sure to visit and enjoy it.

The students, along with parent volunteer Erica Giddinge, unveiled those plans with a brief discussion and a film presentation after school Feb. 28. They have worked since last spring on the project, which Giddinge estimates will cost $3,000 or more.

The obstacle course, which consists of eight elements, is intended for the older students at a school that includes pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.

“We’re not going to be here, but we’re definitely going to come here,” said Halorie Kivler, as she and her friends readied for Friday’s presentation.

“It will be a lot of fun,” said Al Dawson, who will be in the school next year.

Giddinge, chairwoman of the school’s Playground Improvement Committee, said that she met last May with students, trying to get them involved in community affairs. She and the students tossed around some ideas, and they decided to focus on the playground.

“This is all kid-driven,” Giddinge said. “We looked at the playground and prioritized. There was nothing for the older kids. This obstacle course consolidates all their ideas into one area.”

Committee members and the students decided on a plot, 192 by 130 feet, near the soccer field.

“We took a walk out there and we decided this huge flat spot would be perfect,” she said.

Last fall, committee members and the students sketched out the obstacle course, which includes a climbing wall, a jumping stage and a maze. The entire class, including teacher Elaine Moore, was involved in the process, Giddinge said.

“Now our next step will be fundraising,” she said. “It’s a learning process. We want them to own it.”

Kivler, Nicole Ledbetter, Nora Soule, Jane Dawson, Emma Rankins and Giddinge’s son, Nate, each read short statements preceding the video – which also was student produced.

Lilly Hayden-Hunt began the video, which showed clearly how the older students have outgrown a playground built for younger children.

Following the video, Giddinge told the audience that she has sent letters out to parents, advising them of the fundraising campaign. Giddinge said she plans a “soft release,” in which the parents approve of their children’s fundraising activities.

The committee and students will use the HopeMob.org website, which she said will help them fundraise at no charge.

“They promote for you,” she said. “They raise money for nonprofits. The school must give them information on the school and the project. If you have family around the world or around the country, they can donate.

“I think we can raise a lot of money doing it,” she said. “I’ve got 20 people in my family. “If I can get them all to cough up 10 bucks, that helps.”

Emma Rankins points to a sketch of an obstacle course that fifth-graders have planned for the Pownal Elementary School playground, while to her left, Nicole Ledbetter, and to her right, Nora Soule look on. Pownal fifth-graders, from left, Nora Soule, Jane Dawson, Emma Rankins and Halorie Kivler, are happy about the plans they and their classmates have created to build an obstacle course on the school playground. 

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