$1 Million Student-Designed Playground Opens At P.S. 78 Eastchester

Not only did students at P.S. 78 get to play on a brand-new playground last week, but they also got the satisfaction of knowing they designed it themselves.

The $1 million playground was unveiled and officially opened for play on Tuesday, June 21. P.S. 78 was the last of seven schools in the Bronx and 28 city-wide to receive new recreation space as part of a joint program between non-profit the Trust for Public Land and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC initiative.

As with all playgrounds built in the program, it was designed over the course of a year by P.S. 78 students. The playground was built with $700,000 of public funding from the School Construction Authority and $333,000 in private donations raised by the Trust for Public Land.

P.S. 78 was chosen because of the lack of recreational space in the area surrounding it, but when principal Claudina Skerritt was asked if she wanted to participate in the program, there was one stipulation; the brand-new playground would have to be open to the public on weekends.

“My initial reaction was surprise,” Skerritt said. “I really couldn’t visualize what it would look like but when I heard that the design would come from the students I was all for it.”

Some principals declined participation over concern about the community access to their playgrounds. The Eastchester chapter of the national BELL After-School Program will also be using the play space.

Construction on the new schoolyard began in early 2011. Before that groundbreaking, there was not much in the way of amenities besides some paint on the concrete yard surface.

The design process, which was limited to the fifth grade students who are set to graduate this year, began while they were fourth graders in spring 2010.

The revamped playground features a running track, an artificial turf field, brand new jungle gyms, a mural and a puppet theater for younger students. Laconia resident and P.S. 78 student David Agboti took credit for the running track idea.

“That came from when I went to a football field and I saw that they had a track going around it,” he said.

David Morales of Fish Avenue, meanwhile, liked the landscaping.

“My favorite part is the flowers,” he said. “Flowers are beautiful to me.”

The design process was also a lesson in budgeting for the students. They were told they only had so much money to work with and had to make compromises. Swings were a popular choice that fell by the wayside.

“They really wanted those swings,” said Mary Alice Lee, director of the playgrounds program for the Trust for Public Land. “They were definitely sad.”

However, not many students looked sad on the first day of play at the new yard.

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” Skerritt said. “You can see the areas that the students were passionate about.”

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