The Community Playground Project Celebrates 20 Years
BATON ROUGE - For the past 20 years, LSU Biological and Agricultural Engineering Professor Marybeth Lima has made it her mission to build safe, accessible playgrounds—and bright futures—for local public school students.
With the help of her BE students and volunteers, she has spearheaded more than 30 playground builds through the LSU Community Playground Project. To commemorate the CPP’s 20th anniversary, Lima and her design students recently hosted a celebration at University Presbyterian Church, where there was plenty of food, laughs and stories shared among students, volunteers and community members who have worked together over the years.
Founded in 1998, the LSU CPP has first-year BE students work together with local schools and community partners to co-design and build playgrounds in an effort to ensure all children have access to play. Elementary and college students collaborate to create a playground design, which is finalized by children’s votes and input from teachers, administrators, and community members. The team then works together to fundraise and write proposals to pay for the playground and its installation.
The playgrounds, which can be constructed in 2-3 days, are usually built by volunteers to promote learning and community spirit and to minimize construction costs. In all, the CPP teams have designed playgrounds that serve approximately 12,000 children every school day.
“I try to do as many as I can, as fast as I can,” Lima said. “Finding volunteers is easy because we’ve been doing it for a while and most people love to come out and build. It’s the money that’s hard.”
For this reason, the CPP team fundraises and writes grant proposals to obtain funding. If the funding goes through, the team then organizes volunteers and helps facilitate the build. Lima has a list of 550 volunteers to call on for help with projects, many of whom were at the celebration gathering.
“Everyone you see here works for me or is an alum who graduated and came back for the party,” Lima said.
“She’s great,” says Beatriz Garcia, a BE senior from Brusly, La., who has been a part of Lima’s CPP team since her freshman year. “I still plan on helping with playground builds after I graduate.”
After the students presented her with a tiara and trophy to show their appreciation, Lima smiled and quickly shifted everyone’s attention back to the celebration. After all, this is a woman whose motto is “Service is the rent you pay for living on this earth.”
To learn more about LSU CPP, visit https://lsucommunityplaygroundproject.weebly.com. To learn more about LSU’s Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, visit http://www.lsu.edu/eng/bae/index.php.
By Libby Haydel