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1-4-21 — Tomahawk Playground Receives Makeover

Jan. 4, 2021 ~ A school playground can be the source of many fond childhood memories, especially when the playground looks like Tomahawk Elementary. Colorful paint outlines fun activities for individual students and small groups enjoying fresh air outdoors during recess.

“I had two staff members ask if they could dress up the playground,” said principal Julia Baucum. “Offie Morris, a paraeducator and parent in our building, and kindergarten teacher Christi Gottschalk worked together for their vision and follow through.”

What started as an idea to touch up faded paint this summer bloomed into a full-fledged revitalization of the asphalt playground at Tomahawk.

“Christi and I both spent time brainstorming ideas and then brought those visions together,” Morris said. “We were not sure how recess would look with COVID, so we tried to add things that students could do with minimal touching.”

For instance, instead of just repainting the yellow bus feature on the playground, they asked a fifth grader to get involved.

“Offie gave the bus a new coat of yellow paint, and Owen Beckman painted KC Wolf and he football with fire,” Gottschalk said. “I painted the remainder of the bus with a nod to the Chiefs’ Super Bowl win.”

“Owen spent two days making the bus come to life with his KC Wolf and football,” Morris said. “He added Sluggerrr to the baseball benches.”

Key forces behind the playground revamp included both Gottschalk and Morris, two members of Morris’ family, teacher Gayla Posch and paraeducator Stacey Jurgensmeyer. Together they volunteered hundreds of hours of their time and only spent a few hundred dollars from the school budget.

Gottschalk painted a sensory path without using stencils, and saved hundreds of dollars in comparison to hiring a professional artist.

“Just me and my paintbrush doing what I love to do!” she said. “I looked for ideas online and then sketched out my ideas on paper. When I first figured out what an artist would charge for the kindergarten area and equipment area, it would be a minimum of $1,500 for their time.”

“We painted early mornings and late at night to avoid a lot of foot traffic,” Morris said. “One of my favorite parts of this was the conversations with people who stopped by: the dog walkers, kids coming to play, or just neighbors who stopped to see the action.”

A few visitors even brought beverages or pillows for the painters’ sore knees.

Gottschalk also has fond memories of the two weeks she spent on the playground project.

“Offie’s company and help painting inside my shape outlines made this even more fun,” Gottschalk said. “My favorite things to paint were the caterpillar and the big T. I love painting tiger stripes.”

Morris looks at this project as a kind of therapy for coping with the early months of the pandemic.

“This was a way to deal with the extra time during the long COVID break,” she said. “It was a stress reliever to come paint and feel like with all the unknown and sadness that this would bring joy to so many.”

“Students are loving the amazing work!” Baucum said.