Kids learn the ropes of new playground equipment

2012-08-27T00:00:00Z 2012-08-27T00:11:49Z Kids learn the ropes of new playground equipmentBy MARY PICKETT mpickett@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

McKinley Elementary students didn’t need a tutorial on how to use the slightly bizarre-looking playground equipment installed just in time for the first day of school.

The second the caution tape came down Wednesday, kids swarmed over the largest new addition to the playground, a blue web of ropes slung around a tall metal pole like a Christmas tree.

“You couldn’t see anything but kids,” said Bert Reyes, McKinley principal.

Called the Spacenet, the webbed climbing tree joins three Spicas, two spinners and one Supernova at the northwest corner of the playground.

All were paid for with money raised by the McKinley Parent Teacher Association.

The Spica is a triangular platform with a squiggly pole sticking up through the middle. A future McKinley student, Lily Boulet, 2, climbed on one Spica on Friday and pushed herself around with one pink Croc-clad foot treading the ground.

Cara Virostko, a McKinley parent who worked on the playground project, showed that even an adult could sit in the bucket-shaped spinner and easily whirl around.

The Supernova vaguely resembles an old-fashioned playground merry-go-round except that the large navy blue circle is tilted. Kids can sit, stand or walk on the wide circle while it turns.

All of the pieces strengthen kids’ muscles, balance, coordination and confidence, said Nancy Hughes, the mother of three McKinley students who helped with fundraising.

The new equipment was badly needed.

A decades-old wooden jungle gym had deteriorated and was giving students splinters and yellowjackets a place to nest. That structure was removed, as was a dome-shaped climbing apparatus that was deemed unsafe.

The red and brown complex of slides and monkey bars installed about 20 years ago still are in good shape and are being left for students to play on.

Except for some of the concrete work, that project was done entirely with parent volunteer labor, including landscaping and planting trees and shrubs, said Shauna Kerr, the mother of two grown children who attended McKinley.

“Dads dug the holes,” she said.

This time around, the new equipment was installed by the company that made it, Kompan, because it required specialists, Hughes said.

The Danish company was started by an artist who noticed kids crawling all over his sculptures, so he decided to make artful, yet practical, playground equipment.

The playground at McKinley, which has about 300 students this fall, is small, Reyes said. Grassy lawns are limited and most of the playground is asphalt.

So he’s glad to see new equipment that lots of kids can play on at the same time.

The PTA raised the $28,000 cost of the new equipment over the past year. Parents and students sold candy last fall and gift cards donated by Gainan’s this spring.

The annual cake auction in February added more money to the effort.

Now that the first phase of the project is done, the PTA is starting fundraising for Phase 2, which will add at the southeast corner of the campus a large Kompan climbing structure with spinning and balance beam features.

That will cost $65,000, Hughes said.

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