Children enjoy new area at Hegins-Hubley
By Rebecca Zemencik, Managing Editor • email@example.com
VALLEY VIEW – Micah Ulicny, an Eagle Scout hopeful of Boy Scout Troop 662 was all smiles while his mom was choked up. The two visited the all inclusive playground at Hegins-Hubley Elementary School and witnessed the children playing on the equipment for the first time Friday morning.
Micah, a senior at Tri-Valley High School first approached Kate Herb, the special education teacher at the elementary level, about a year ago and asked her what is something that her kids could really use. He was in the planning stages of coming up with an Eagle Scout Project.
“We had this space right outside the classroom window that I always thought would be an awesome spot for an all-inclusive playground,” said Herb. “This would be an ideal spot for a calming area to bring my kids outdoors and just let them do their thing and play and not have to worry about the noise and hustle and bustle of the main playground.”
Micah and his mom, Pamela Ulicny, a science teacher at Tri-Valley High School were on it as soon as they heard Herb’s ideas.
Micah immediately made a plan and had a meeting with the school’s special ed department chair, elementary special ed teacher, head custodian, representatives of the Schuylkill County Master Gardeners and the Schuylkill Herb Society. All attendants at the meeting were on board with his idea and were excited to make his vision a reality.
“My idea was to convert the approximately 40’x120′ space into an adaptive/inclusive playground and sensory garden,” said Micah. “I approached the school board for approval last August and was granted the go ahead at that meeting. I began making contact with businesses, organizations, and filling out applications for grants.”
“My biggest break for the plan came when I received word that the Tyler Stiely Memorial Fund was willing to donate $10,000 towards the project,” said Micah. “That donation really got the ball rolling.”
The playground includes equipment that Mrs. Herb picked out as the most universally assistive to special needs children. The equipment includes a handicap swing, a stationary cycler, an adaptive see-saw, an outdoor paint panel, and an outdoor music maker/xylophone. The equipment was all purchased from a company called Landscape Structures.
Maurer Excavating donated all their time and equipment to prepare the site.
“It was really neat during the construction phase of the project,” said Herb. “Since the site sits directly outside our classroom window, the kids could see what was going on and were asking questions constantly. Children that aren’t normally vocal were curious enough to ask questions. They got to see the entire development of the site and learned that things take time and planning to complete. It was a great learning and teaching experience for the entire classroom.”
Since the kids have been on the new playground, Herb remarked that it’s amazing to see them all play.
“When we had to go to the big playground we always had some kids who just didn’t know how to fit in or socially interact and here they all play and interact with each other,” said Herb. “No one is moping about or just sitting off by themselves. They all play together and enjoy each piece of equipment. They are also excited to get their hands on the paint station.”
Micah, who plans to continue his education in college for special education on the secondary level, will be submitting his paperwork to be approved for his Eagle Scout honor with the Hawk Mountain Boy Scout Council.
Although the playground portion of the project is complete, Micah’s not stopping there. He and his mother, are already planning and visioning phase 2 of the project which will be the sensory garden.
“The garden will include paved pathways, plants that have certain textures, colors, and smells, an herb garden area, and a ‘calming’ area for times when the kids are overstimulated. This will be an area where the kids can actually crawl inside among the plants,” said Micah. “I expect the sensory garden portion to be completed in the spring.”
Micah plans to have an opening ceremony possibly in the spring after the sensory garden has been developed. He also plans on making a thank you sign listing all who supported the entire project to be displayed at the site.
“We are planning to invite everyone to Micah’s Eagle Scout Ceremony to be held in the spring or summer of 2018,” said Pam Ulicny. “We’re excited to have this project become a reality. This wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for community members like you. It is a true honor and pleasure to live and work in such a caring and giving community.”