July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

Children look forward to preschool’s new playground

Korinne Caniglia

GUILFORD TWP. — Dozens of preschoolers will scale rock walls and spiral down slides on new, outdoor adventures this fall.

Jerusalem Lutheran Preschool, 9282 Acme Road, broke ground on a new playground Thursday.

Mary Anne Rodgers, administrator of Jerusalem Lutheran Preschool, gets some help from some of her students in breaking ground for the school’s new playground. From left, are Ryan Heckle, 5, Mikel Harris, 5, Sophia Camacho, 3, and Drew Firebaugh, 4. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY DAVID KNOX)

The school, which is marking its 45th anniversary, celebrated with games, hands-on activities and a picnic for families and community members.

“We are very excited to have the new playground,” said Mary Anne Rodgers, the preschool’s administrator. “In order to get the physical exercise, they need to be able to do activities like plant flowers in a garden outside, climb on a structure and slide down a slide.”

Lauren Fritz, 5, daydreams about playing on the slide.

“It will be so fun,” said Lauren, of Seville. “We’ll be able to go outside and play.”

Members of the Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church will install the 3,750-square-foot playground, a bike path and fencing after buying the equipment from a former school in Tennessee. The trail will urge preschoolers to practice safety skills at traffic signs and crosswalks while riding and parking their tricycles.

“It’s been exciting to merge skills and passions to help plan this outdoor play area for children at our church and preschool programs,” said Nancy Hudson, of Seville. She belongs to the playground committee made up of church members and preschool families.

“What a welcoming place for children and their families to socialize, build friendships and have fun,” she said.

Church and community members have raised about $4,800, or nearly one-third of its $16,000 goal, for the outdoor equipment and rubber tiles.

The children, who range between ages 3 and 6, have played in a large fellowship hall at the church since the preschool’s original playground was torn down two years ago.
“It will mean a lot to have a safe playground,” said Jackie Fritz, the mother of Lauren and 3-year-old Jack, who will join the preschool in the fall.

“It will be nice to have outdoor activities. When they’re outside playing, they will be in a controlled environment but allowed to express themselves and learn how to share and take turns.”

A lot of learning happens on the playground, Rodgers said. It will help promote the physical exercise necessary for children’s growth and development. Physical activities that develop fine and gross motor skills lead to academic success, she said.

“The playground will assist the child with running in a coordinated fashion, skipping, hopping and climbing,” Rodgers said.

“Then, the academics will come a little bit easier. Most academic learning has to do with some type of coordination, the eyes, the hands and the thinking process. Hand-eye coordination helps children become better readers and assists the child when he’s learning to print,” she said.

The preschool recently received the top, one-star rating for meeting quality benchmarks established by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and Bureau of Child Care and Development. The Step Up To Quality award system recognizes programs that go above and beyond health and safety licensing standards.

The preschool’s seven-member staff oversees more than 35 children. It achieved high marks for its lower children-to-adult ratios in the classroom and a quality teaching staff with degrees or credentials in child development.

The preschool’s programs urge children to explore their world through play. Many skills, from gross motor coordination to self-expression, are developed through structured and unstructured play, on and off the playground.

“We look at the total development and instill a love for learning,” Rodgers said.

Jennifer Rainey, of Wadsworth, said the playground will make a great addition to the program’s curriculum.

“They use play to help kids learn and grow,” said Rainey, whose 3-year-old son, Luke, attends the preschool. “In addition to the fun and movement, there are many educational opportunities as well. It’s exciting for the community.”

Contact Korinne Caniglia at areanews@medina-gazette.com.

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The Gazette is Medina County's daily local news source, serving the community since 1832. Contact The Gazette's news department at (330) 721-4065 or areanews@medina-gazette.com.