Menallen Elementary School U.S. Playground Map

MARILYN FORBES I FOR THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW Enjoying the U.S. map on the Menallen Elementary School playground are students (from left) Matthew Zsiros, 11, Echo Shaffer, 10, Colton May, 7 and Hunter Sabatula, 6.

The parents and the staff of the Menallen Elementary School playground committee have been striving for two years to make the outside play area a nicer and safer environment for the students, and a recently attained fun and an interactive playground map brings them one step closer.

Parent and committee member Shelly May recently entered a contest through the nonprofit organization Peaceful Playgrounds and was awarded a large map stencil of the United States for the outside play area.

“I was really excited,” May said. “I think it’s a great addition to the playground area.”

The group was given the stencil, which measures 35 by 36 feet, then held fundraisers to generate the enough money to purchase paint to be used on the project.

“We purchased good, skidproof paint,” said school librarian and committee member Christa Sabatula, adding that the group of parents and students then set out to complete the map. “It took us five hours a day for four days to finish it, but I think it turned out really nice.”

Students and parents pitched in to complete the task, and even though the map needed two coats of paint, it was an enjoyable project.

“I think it was fun,” said student and project volunteer Hunter Sabatula, 6.

The map is just an extra bonus to the group’s efforts. The group has been working for two years to raise $20,000 to purchase handicapped-accessible playground equipment that will be installed on the school grounds, enabling all of the student body to enjoy recess more.

“We are so close to our goal,” Christa Sabatula said, adding that the group to date has raised $19,000 of the $20,000 needed to proceed with the project. “We are really getting excited.”

The United States map has not only become a fun interactive tool for the students, but will become part of several of the classes’ curriculum.

“The older students will be studying the states, so it will be used then,” Sabatula said. “The teachers for some of the younger students also plan to use it to help the students identify the different shapes of the states. It’s going to be a great asset.”

Sabatula added that the group has received nothing but enthusiasm in all of their projects, and the latest addition of the map is no exception.

“She (school Principal Paula Work) has been nothing but supportive and the rest of the district and the administration has also been great with us with all our projects,” Sabatula said. “This has been a group effort between the parents, the staff, the students, the administration and the community. Everyone is working together to make the playground better for all the students.”