Brainstorming for playground

Students from Chalmers Elementary and Lee Intermediate Schools brainstormed with designer Dennis Wille Thursday morning for ideas for additions to the Leonard Park playground. Pictured is Wille (right) receiving ideas during a session with fourth graders at Lee Intermediate School.

Students from Chalmers Elementary and Lee Intermediate Schools were busy helping design the new expansion to Leonard Park on Thursday morning.

Designer Dennis Wille brainstormed with second and fourth graders in several sessions to hear their ideas about what they would like to add to the Leonard Park playground.

Lee Intermediate School students voiced their requests for playground additions, which included a tree house, see saw, tire swing, all kinds of slides, a tunnel, tether ball, maze, army playground, carnival, food bar and bumper cars.

In earlier sessions with Chalmers students, Wille said the second graders requests included a rock wall, more monkey bars, more swings, a limousine and things that spin.

 “I told them we won’t be able to get everything in, but I do know that once we get the addition, it will just add that much to the play experience,” Wille added of his brainstorming sessions with the second-graders.

“With the brainstorming sessions we don’t write anything down,” Wille said of his work with the students. “We don’t do any judgment of any kind.”

The students also came up with ideas about who should help build the new expansion to the park, as the additions will be built by community volunteers. Ideas for people to help included dads, people who fix stuff and build things, grandparents, kids, principals, officers, teenagers, construction workers, teachers and “people from Oklahoma.”

Students from Mrs. Tiffany Nichols’ fourth-grade class shared some of their ideas about what they wanted to add to the playground.

Dakota Meadors said he wants a twisty slide because they make him dizzy and they’re built high up.

Demetreze Lee said he wants a merry-go-round on the playground, one that involves everyone running around to get it going fast and then jumping on it for the ride. He said he likes to be dizzy too and that a merry-go-round is fun.

Gaug Pendergraft said he wants the playground to have a tunnel up in the air.

Ivette Moreno said she wants a tree house to be added to the playground, one that has a hole in the middle of it so you can slide down.

“I have a tree house,” Moreno added, “but it doesn’t have a hole in it.”

Cathy Enriquez said she wants a merry-go-round too because she likes to go in circles with a lot of her friends.

The students said they liked that they were included in designing the park.

“He could get our ideas and not just build something that he would like but that we won’t like,” Lee added.

Lynette Petigrew, co-chair of the Community Parks of Gainesville Committee, said the committee wants the kids to have a say about what should be in the park because it’s their playground. She said it was the kid’s ideas and imagination that designed the original playground at Leonard Park and now the committee wants input from the students for the expansion.

Wille helped design the original playground at Leonard Park 11 years ago and said he is happy with how the project worked out. His company, Leathers and Associates, is based in Ithaca, N.Y. but he travels to different cities and towns to work with schools, parks and recreation departments, committees and other groups to design playgrounds that are volunteer-built. He has traveled to Australia, Guatemala, India, New Zealand and Canada since he last came to Gainesville.

Wille said he got into designing playgrounds when he went to a seminar and realized that “playground people” were having more fun than those designing mulit-family housing, which is what he was doing. So, he made a transition over the next year and has been helping to design playgrounds for about 18 years. He said he is still having fun doing it.

“That’s what is important to me,” he added. I need to do something I’m having fun with.”

(© Staff photo by Pamela Robinson)

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