Visible Men Academy prepares to break ground for new playground

eearl@bradenton.comOctober 18, 2013 

MANATEE-- The Visible Men Academy students' eyes lit up when they saw the 18-wheeler trucks pile mounds of mulch in front of their school Thursday. The elementary school students know what's coming soon.

"Playground!" they screamed excitedly as they gathered inside.

The charter school Visible Men Academy has been planning about 16 weeks for the arrival of new playground equipment, said Cindy Cavalarro-Day, director of communication for Visible Men Academy.

The national nonprofit playground-building organization Kaboom! and its partner, Foresters, collaborated with Visible Men to make construction of the 2,500-square-foot playground possible.

Cavalarro-Day said the playground was a community project.

Home Depot brought wood for the project, Waste Management donated recycling bins and local contractors volunteered to cut the wood and dig holes.

The playground will be finished Saturday and open for playtime Tues

day afternoon after the cement settles. Students made posters for the unveiling Saturday.

Visible Men Academy held a design day in August where students drew their ideal playground and picked what they wanted to include in the layout.

"Kids wanted to climb. They wanted monkey bars, to go fast on the slide and a fort," Cavalarro-Day said.

All those elements will be included as well as basketball hoops, picnic tables, chalkboard and a variety of puzzles and brainteaser activities.

Illustration students from the Ringling College of Art and Design helped students with their designs, and will come back Saturday as the playground is completed.

"We are fortunate to have so many people in the community interested," Cavalarro-Day said.

Around 25 volunteers, including members of Braden River High School's Key Club, will work Saturday to turn the purple-and-black plastic pieces delivered Thursday into the student's dream fort.

Second-graders Marvens Lacombe, Isai Martinez-Gutierre and Joshua Barrero said they can hardly wait.

"There will be a lot of stuff to do, and I know it's going to be fun," Martinez-Guitierre said.

Barerro said it will be a time for the kids to go outside and exercise.

"We will get to go outside and run around and get sweaty," Barerro said.

Without the playground, students still get an opportunity to take a break to play outdoors. Sports equipment was donated, and during "solar time" the Visible Men "suns" get a break to go on a short walk to break up the school day.

Cavalarro-Day said a playground is beneficial in a variety of ways.

"It provides interaction, social engagement and a time for just having fun, and being able to enjoy, and be boys," Cavalarro-Day said.

Visible Men submitted the grant application for the playground in June.

The playground will be open to the community, including Community Church of God, which leases property to Visible Men.

Katrina Hill, associate project manager for Kaboom!, said the nonprofit is on track to build 180 playgrounds this year nationwide.

"We focus on providing safe environments for students to play, and it is a gathering place," Hill said.

The volunteer efforts have inspired some students to plan on picking up a hammer to build their own projects one day.

"After I'm done playing soccer, I'm going to ask my mom if I can go to a school to build a playground," Barrero said.

Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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