Two weeks ago, Auron Carter spent part of the day helping to spray paint a snake trail on the blacktop surface of the playground at Pershing Hill Elementary School.
“It was a lot of work,” said Auron, who attends third grade at Pershing Hill.
The 8-year-old was one of 25 adult and child volunteers who participated in the school’s “Paint, Imagine, Play!” community project, sponsored by Pershing Hill’s Parent Teacher Association, on Aug. 18.
Olivia Nowicki, parent volunteer coordinator and PTA volunteer coordinator at Pershing Hill, helped to organize the community project.
“ ‘Paint, Imagine, Play!’ was a community project where off-post businesses joined forces with school volunteers and the PTA in a collaborative effort to paint activities and games on the school blacktop for students to enjoy during recess time,” Nowicki said.
“We added many colorful four-square, hopscotches and nature trails to enhance the outdoor recess area.”
Samantha Carter, Auron’s mother and vice president of the PTA, said that each year the organization works to provide an end-of-the-year gift that will benefit the school community.
“This year we wanted to place an emphasis on imagination and play,” Carter said. “New colorful playground artwork filled the bill perfectly.
“Ideally, this project will offer inclusive play for all students during recess and create a strong sense of belonging for all children. It was also a great way to encourage students to be creative and to enjoy some good old-fashioned fun.”
The PTA budgets about $1,500 for the end-of-the-year gift. The PTA contacted several local businesses to ask if they would contribute to the project.
Sherwin-Williams and J.E.M. Contracting Company donated the paint and supplies and provided stencils for the creation of the playground artwork. Fit and Fun Playscapes offered a 10 percent discount.
Nancy Graham, a first grade teacher at Pershing Hill, came up with the idea for the community project.
Graham said she wanted to provide the students with organized outside games and activities because “they are fun and innocent and provide a lot of fun.”
She said that when she was growing up, children played outdoor games like hopscotch, four square, jump rope and dodge ball.
“Children today are so obsessed with TV and video games that they mimic what they have watched when given down time,” Graham said. “I was frustrated with what I was observing at recess with the children.”
Graham said she saw students walking around “pretending to be zombies or pretending to be fighters during their recess time. We see so much violence and obscure stuff on TV.
“Young children need a break from this and need to just be children. They need to laugh and have fun and play games that allow them to build friendships and foster positive experiences with their peers.”
Volunteers from the school community — students, parents and other family members — began the project at 8:30 a.m. and completed their work by 3:30 p.m.
They helped to set up and lay out stencils, position stencils on the blacktop for spray-painting and also helped to hand-paint smaller stencils.
They also donated food and assisted with the cleanup.
Air Force Master Sgt. Frank Corralejo of the 70th Operations Support Squadron and husband of Vanessa Corralejo, the president of the PTA, volunteered to help paint stencils on the blacktop.
Their 7-year-old daughter Ysabella is a second-grader at Pershing Hill.
“It’s really about the opportunity for the children to explore and use creative thinking,” Frank Corralejo said.
“There are 600-plus students in the school and there’s only so much room for the kids to play without the stencils.”
He said the four square, hopscotch and animal print trails allow students to play together in limited space and still have fun.
“This is important for the school,” Corralejo said. “This is our community.”
Auron said he’s happy the blacktop was decorated and painted.
“It’s fun to play hopscotch,” he said. “I like playing with my friends.”
Vanessa Corralejo said the PTA works to promote a thriving community of students, families, teachers and staff.
“When our efforts are successful, the students’ lives are enriched beyond the classroom,” she said.
“Each child will know that they are a valued and supported member of the community.”
The newly designed playground will greet students as they return to Pershing Hill this week.
“We cannot wait to welcome back the students to school with the beautiful additions to the school recess areas,” Nowicki said.