Hastings Kiwanis installing musical playgrounds at elementary schools
HASTINGS - Kids in Hastings are moving to the beat of their own drums after one group installed outdoor musical playgrounds at area schools.
Hastings Kiwanis started the $80,000 project to celebrate its 100th anniversary and give back to the community. What started as an idea for one playground quickly grew to eight after discussions with school staff.
Volunteers set up musical playgrounds at Alcott and Longfellow Elementary Schools and Zion Classical Academy last week. Most ensembles include seven tall tubular bells, a large babel drum and colorful rainbow sambas. Instruments are pitched in the pentatonic scale, which means there are no half steps and notes will sound good when played together.
“I like how you can play it and it can make noise,” said Nyla Witte, a third-grade student at Longfellow Elementary.
“I like doing the different things with (my teacher) like repeating what they do, and then sometimes you can do it and other people repeat it,” said Charlie Ratzlaff, a fifth-grade student at Longfellow Elementary.
Hastings Kiwanis worked closely with principals, superintendents and music teachers on this project. Many teachers helped install the playgrounds at their respective schools.
Tom Michalek, an elementary music specialist at Watson Elementary, helped dozens of volunteers set up the musical playground Monday at Watson. He said the playground came at just the right time.
“Once COVID happened and we learned that we would be teaching outside as much as possible, it really was just a perfect fit,” Michalek said. “So many of them have been so isolated and with their own families, and often times that creativity component kind of goes by the wayside. So this will be an excellent time to be outside and do some creating.”
Michaelk said the playground offers rhythmic and melodic instruments, and will allow students to apply what they learn both in and out of the classroom.
Volunteers also installed one of the playgrounds Monday at Hawthorne Elementary. On Wednesday, they’ll install two more sets at St. Michael’s Preschool and Lincoln Elementary.
Mike Howie, a Hastings Kiwanis member and one of three captains of the musical playground project, said the organization started fundraising in December. They received $25,000 from the community; $10,000 from the Hastings Community Foundation; $10,000 from an anonymous grant; more than $32,000 through Give Hastings Day; and two $2,000 donations.
Howie said they originally estimated the project would take two to three years, but will have it finished in nine months thanks to strong community support.
“Music education is pretty important, and obviously the people in Hastings are big supporters of that or we wouldn’t have been able to raise the money,” Howie said. “Just having that opportunity for creative play in a different way that’s musical I think just really helps kids grow, and learn and become their best selves.”
Volunteers will install a musical playground at Adams Central later this week.