A lone tire swing hangs as the only resident of a wood-chip area on the Prairie Elementary playground.
The tire swing used to be one of a few play structures in that area, but last year the equipment was removed by Yelm Community Schools, which deemed it unsuitable for the children that play there.
Now, the kids of Prairie Elementary are raising money during an event called the Turkey Trot so that they can afford a new play structure to go where the old equipment used to be installed.
“Our playground is quite a bit smaller than what it was in previous years,” said Jennifer Brownell, office professional at Prairie Elementary, adding that the Turkey Trot could work because a similar event, called the Reindeer Run, raised enough money for a new big toy in the playground a couple years ago.
“The kids will go home and they’ll start collecting pledges from their families and friends,” Brownell said. “Collectively we are hoping to walk 500 miles on Nov. 16, at 1:30 p.m. to raise funds to replace the equipment that we had to take out. The whole school will come out and participate in the Turkey Trot, so they will be walking around the track, getting in those 500 miles. We are hoping to do them in 30 minutes.”
A fundraiser like this may seem like it will only affect recess time, but Brownell said that these planned times for physical activity affect the ability of children to learn in the classroom.
“The new playground equipment is very important for the kids,” Brownell said. “The more active and engaged we can keep them out here on the playground, the more engaged they will be in the classroom while learning. They are getting out. They are wiggling. They’re moving. They’re using up that extra energy so they can stay focused in class.”
And the Turkey Trot itself will be a boon for educators as well, she said.
“For teachers, the Turkey Trot is a great way for them to promote teamwork and working together,” Brownell said.
After the trot, the students will return to their classes for some hot cocoa and participation awards donated by the Prairie Elementary Parent Teacher Organization.
Ashley Brooks, Prairie Elementary PTO treasurer, said that Prairie Elementary is an institution that she holds dear.
“This school means a lot to my family,” Brooks said. “I went to Prairie 20 years ago. I remember spending my recesses playing foursquare, tetherball or wall ball. I was too old to play on the playground toys/structures, but I knew which ones needed replaced.”
And after the school district removed the play equipment, one tiny piece of it was left behind, she said.
“It’s so funny, my son brought home a piece of the old structure today,” Brooks said. “He said ‘I kicked what looked like a stump and a piece came off. Because it was old, I wanted to keep it. But if we get the money from the Turkey Trot we can have a new one.’”
The school welcomes anyone to pledge by calling the school at 360-458-3700 to talk with Brownell or by sending a check made out to Prairie Elementary to P.O. Box 476 Yelm, WA 98597.