Grant monies would give students 2 new state-of-the-art schoolyards

Old playground equipment at Orchard Avenue Elementary School needs replacement, says Principal Vicki Woods. The school is requesting $110,000 to rehabilitate the space with a new climbing feature, a weather station, fitness stations, new blacktop with areas for basketball and foursquare, and a greenhouse and garden area with edible and native plants. Students have been the main designers and organizers of the planning process.



Two Grand Junction education institutions are seeking to improve outdoor recreation for local children through grants from Great Outdoors Colorado. 

Orchard Avenue Elementary School and the John McConnell Math and Science Center are applying for two different grants from GOCO, which is a voter-created initiative that uses state lottery revenue to invest in parks, trails, rivers, wildlife and open spaces.

Orchard Avenue Elementary is applying for a Schoolyard Initiative Grant to improve and replace the school’s playground, according to Principal Vicki Woods.

Most of the current playground equipment is 25 to 40 years old.

“Our playground has been falling apart,” she said. “This will give students a safer place to play and give them more opportunities to play.”

The school is requesting $110,000 from GOCO to rehabilitate the space. Woods said students have been the main designers and organizers of the planning process.

The school’s student council created a list of ideas and visited every classroom to explain their vision and get input from other students, and then the students — as well as parents and community members — voted on the best ideas.

If the school is awarded the grant, the updated playground will include a new climbing feature, a weather station, fitness stations, new blacktop with areas for basketball and foursquare, and a greenhouse and garden area with edible and native plants.

“This has been a fantastic experience for the students,” Woods said. “They knew they had parameters they needed to work within, and they were very thoughtful about their process and came up with great options.”

The John McConnell Math and Science Center is requesting $300,000 to build an outdoor recreation area at its new location at Colorado Mesa University.

Executive Director Jenn Moore said the new center needs a space for kids to be kids — even if that’s a little messy and loud.

“We need space for kids to run around, blast off rockets, explode science experiments and blast off water cannons,” Moore said.

There would also be space for crawling around on a jumbo-sized DNA model or clambering through structures modeled after the Fibonacci sequence.

Moore is also proposing some low-key recreation options, such as a community gathering space and native plant exhibit.

Whatever the feature, Moore said, the entire space would tie into the center’s mission — helping children learn about science, math, engineering and technology (STEM) in an accessible, hands-on way.

“We’re really excited to think about having a STEM-centric play space on the Western Slope,” she said. “This would be a resource for the community — a publicly accessible space for guests and visitors and community members to enjoy for free.”

The Grand Junction City Council last week signed off as sponsor on both grant applications. It had to do so because educational institutions aren’t eligible for Great Outdoors Colorado funding.


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