December 2, 2020

Middle School's new nature playscape is huge success

The atmosphere behind Hamilton Middle School was electric as students gathered in front of a long red ribbon.

It was the only barrier separating them from the new nature playscape constructed this fall by the Outdoor Discovery Center (ODC). 

“We have looked at this space for 11 years and tried to figure it out,” Superintendent Dave Tebo said to the small crowd gathered on Nov. 10 for the grand opening ceremony. “Thank you to the community members, thank you to the Board of Education, thank you to the administrators, to your teachers, to everybody.”

Check out the video of the event here.

Then administrators handed out scissors, the ribbon was cut, and students rushed the playground. They climbed up the rope tower. Hopped across the rocks. Got serious air on the tire swing supported by a large, perfectly-constructed log. 

Hamilton Middle School Principal Rick Frens could only smile as he watched the controlled chaos ensue. He said the playscape is perfect because it’s beneficial to students and aesthetically pleasing. 

“It’s not just traditional playground equipment,” Frens said. “They are works of art that kids get to play on.” 

The $150,000 project wouldn’t have been possible without community support, according to Travis Williams, executive director of the ODC. The last district bond provided $50,000 for construction, but Williams raised the rest of the $100,000 from Hamilton families, he said.

“Most people want what’s right and best for kids,” Williams said.  

The Hamilton Middle School nature playscape is the seventh playground of its kind the ODC has built in the region. Students from the middle school’s STREAM School also assisted with the project by raking hills where wildflowers were planted.

The space can serve as an outdoor classroom with various gathering spaces and seating. Williams said it also helps students with gross motor skill development, balance, risk-taking skills, and improves overall social/emotional health.

“Kids are going to have an opportunity to be kids,” Frens said. “Any sort of place that’s safe and outside the building is good for kids.”