(Posted Oct. 1, 2020)
Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
Will Engle stepped outside of his comfort zone and, as a result, has made playtime safer, more accessible, and extra fun for some Plain City preschoolers.
Engle, a senior at Jonathan Alder High School, revamped the preschool play area at Plain City Elementary for his Eagle Scout project. The 17-year-old has been a member of Boy Scout Troop 90 since he was in second grade.
As part of the project, Engle solicited donations of money, materials and services. That involved making cold calls to strangers and asking for help.
“That is something I would never do, ever,” he said.
He also coordinated volunteers and service providers and worked with school officials.
“I definitely learned a lot in the art of perseverance. I was doing all of this on top of school and extracurriculars,” Engle said. “There were a lot of points when I thought, ‘This is hard.’ But that’s how life works…It definitely all pays off in the end.”
Engle got the ball rolling last year when he approached preschool teacher Jennifer Bailey. Bailey and Engle’s mother, Tamara, have been friends since their boys were in kindergarten. Bailey’s son also is a senior at Jonathan Alder.
Engle proposed pouring concrete and laying rubber pavers so that the children could more easily ride wheeled toys in the preschool’s outside play area. He also wanted to provide storage units for the toys.
“We serve neuro-typical or normally developing children, as well as children with special needs,” Bailey said. “I think what Will saw was that we didn’t have a place that would adequately serve those children.”
The use of bicycles, tricycles and other ride-on toys helps children to improve their mobility. The grassy area outside the preschool classroom made that somewhat difficult, so Bailey often used the nearby bike path. The path is open to the community and, while community members have been gracious, Bailey said the shared use is not optimal for her students.
Engle’s project provides a space dedicated to preschool use and outfitted with materials that will make injuries less likely should a child fall. The school district is extending the project to include some turf and fencing. This year’s class of 17 preschoolers give the new play area many enthusiastic thumbs-up.
“The children just absolutely love it,” Bailey said.
In fact, they invented a new game inspired by the color of the rubber pavers.
“I did not anticipate this, but they have such good imaginations. They like to play ‘The Floor is Lava’ because the pavers are red,” Bailey said with a chuckle.
She praised Engle for his dedication to the project and praised his parents, Tamara and Mark, for staying out of his way and letting him handle it on his own.
“You really have to be articulate and very mature, and he did a terrific job,” Bailey said. “It’s been nice watching him grow up over the years. He is just a nice young man who was able to accomplish something amazing.”
Engle said he is thankful for the many local helping hands that made the project possible. Scioto Ready Mix and Dean’s Custom Concrete helped with the concrete work. Kelly Hicks, former Plain City Elementary principal, provided some funding through a general education grant she received while she was at the school. The Plain City PTO covered all of the other costs. Some of Engle’s friends and fellow Scouts helped to assemble the storage units.
In addition to his participation in Scouting, Engle plays keyboard in the high school’s show choir band and in the worship band at Journey Community Church. He also sings in an a capella group and has been the lead singer in local bands.