March 28, 2009

Just north of LSU campus sits the playground at University Terrace Elementary. It serves the school children as well as the children in old south Baton Rouge neighborhood and some children of LSU students. From this playground, children can see the LSU campus and Tiger Stadium. However, with 40-year-old playground equipment, safety of the children has become a major concern of the community.

LSU’s Center for Community Engagement, Learning, and Leadership, or CCELL, hosted the 2009 Gulf-South Summit on Service-Learning and Civic Engagement through Higher Education in Baton Rouge, March 25-27, 2009. Administrators, faculty, staff, students and community partners who are engaged in service-learning at colleges and universities throughout the Gulf South attended. Summit participants were offered the opportunity to join in the “Saturday Service Project.” On March 28, the community convened and built a safe playground designed for the children’s active play. It is based on the designs of nationally recognized LSU Biological Engineering Professor Marybeth Lima and her freshman Biological and Agricultural Engineering (BAE) service learning students. BAE students Cody Darnell, Katie Rousseau, Jennifer Craig, Kyle Bridges, and Mary Guo worked with students at University Terrace to plan and design their own dream playground. This unified project has been supported by all three LSU campus chancellors, University Methodist Church, Aramark, Sunrise Rotary members, and many other generous partners. Through large University support, this successful project provides an excellent example of LSU’s commitment to the community.

Lima’s service-learning class for biological engineering freshmen is centered on building safe playgrounds for public schools. Through this hands-on approach of having students design, implement and raise funds for the project, they are able to receive a first-hand experience in this field of engineering. The LSU students receive playground ideas from K-12 children, and turn these dream ideas into designs; providing immediate real-life application of the student’s knowledge and exhibiting how engineering applies to living.

Lima hopes that through the continuance of her service learning classes, every East Baton Rouge Parish public school will have a safe playground is available to all children, including accessibility for physically challenged children. The University Terrace Elementary playground is the 18th playground built by BAE students, bringing fun, safe and creative play to an average of more than 400 school and neighborhood children a day.

Lima and fellow LSU professor, Russell L. Carson, PhD, together wrote and published Play On!, in April 2008. The successful book explores the fundamentals of playground learning activities for youth fitness. BREC has recently adopted Play On! to use as a basis of their children activities.

Article by Mary Englehardt, LSU College of Engineering, 225-578-5706, mlavall@lsu.edu

Portions of Article excerpted from LSU Public Affairs News Releases, Ernie Ballard, LSU Media Relations, 225-578-5685, eballa1@lsu.edu

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