LSU bio-engineering students design playgrounds for schools

Playground Design (Source: WAFB)
Playground Design (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The semester is winding down for students at LSU and some of those in the biological engineering department are learning that a course about child's play is anything but an easy "A."

Groups of three or four students gather around computer screens kicking ideas around. They are polishing up their final projects - playgrounds they have designed and hope to build for schools in the Baton Rouge area.

It's an idea that Professor Marybeth Lima had 20 years ago completely by accident.

"Initially, my forray into this was just trying to come up with an enhanced educational experience for students," said Lima.

The project begins at the old playground. Lima encourages her students to remember what it was like to play as a kid.

"We try to get students to connect with their past. Also, to watch children at play," she added.

For the best ideas, Lima said her students go straight to the experts - kids at their partner schools.

"Who's going to design the best playground? Not us. We haven't been on there in 10 to 20 or more years. Students who play every day are the true experts," Lima explained.

The kids draw pictures of their favorite playground activities - everything from swimming pools to merry-go-rounds. It's up to Lima's students to take the ideas from the children's minds to reality. She said the designs quickly become about something much more than a grade.

"My students are not just designing inside the classroom. They're out at their partner schools tutoring kids, helping the school to try to learn about that community," said Lima.

That connection with the community, Lima said, makes all the difference.

"It's amazing how, I realized, it's not just about my students. It is about community. It's about how we can put our assets together to improve the quality of life for the people around the community," she added.

Since 1998, Lima's students have designed and built nearly 40 playgrounds for schools in the Baton Rouge area.

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