Playground prayers

SJNRA and Penn College collaborate to build new play space

It was a long time coming, but the new playground on the elementary campus of St. John Neumann Regional Academy in Williamsport is ready for fun and officially blessed by Father Bill Corcoran, pastor of St. Boniface Church and St. Lawrence Church.

The students had never had playground equipment before and were accustomed to playing on the blacktop.

Now they have tall slides, monkey bars and simple play items with other special additions that reinforce their Catholic faith, like the Rosary Garden with colorful benches providing a nice place to sit.

The opportunity for a dedicated play area and green space came about when the St. Boniface Church razed a house it owned south of the main parking lot off Penn Street.

Carl Bower, Penn College professor of horticulture and SJNRA parent, organized his students to experience hands-on, real-world learning to landscape the grounds with trees, shrubs and flowers. The 18 to 20 students provided 300 hours of labor to complete the work under Bower’s direction.

“Live projects like this help the students see how they can change lives through the landscapes they create,” Bower said. “We were happy to share our talents to build this playground garden, and we hope they get many hours of enjoyment and learning from it.”

The playground honors the memory of Margaret Keliher Lundy, said Kathy Bahr, SJNRA director of development and alumni relations.

Lundy, who passed away in 1997, was an active mother at Neumann and served on the diocesan school board for many years, Bahr noted. Also, Lundy is the grandmother of SJNRA fourth grader Margaret Lundy.

When the work started earlier this fall, fifth grader Alli Drajem, 11, said she was looking forward to “a lot of shade,” perhaps remembering those blacktop days of reflected heat.

Third grader Cameron Cummings, 9, said he was looking forward to “having a great time with my friends.”

Now that the work is complete and the playground has been experienced, students know exactly what they like best about their outdoor time.

Fourth grader Kane Meixel said, “it’s really nice,” and noted the monkey bars are his favorite.

Guilianna Zeng, fourth grader, likes the “rainbow benches” by the Rosary Garden. As for play and exercise, Zeng likes “everything,” though just running around especially pleases her.

As time goes on, students will also take advantage of outdoor learning opportunities in environmental awareness and sustainability, proving that learning really can be fun.