While some people just see problems, one group of 4th grade girls sees solutions and opportunities.

Ellie Jeanes, Ella Mancuso, Eva Filipponi, Kaitlyn Sullivan, Phoebe Snow, Eva Albers, Catherine Walsh and Nina Torres came up with a solution to a problem they saw on the Cider Mill School playground.

They noticed that there was always a wait for the swings, especially at recess. With only a few swings, some of the students had started “saving” swings for friends and it caused a log-jam and disappointment among the children who didn’t get a chance to swing. The girls came up with an idea:  if they could raise enough money, they could help the school purchase and add swings to the playgrounds and reduce the time kids spent waiting for swings.

Naming their group effort, “Swing to School,” they started planning. They knew they’d have to get the official go-ahead, so they went right to the top.

“The students wrote a very persuasive letter to me and had my secretary schedule a meeting where they laid out their concerns and came up with their initial, and very persuasive, solution of adding swings to the north playground,” says Cider Mill principal Jennifer Mitchell.

Following the first meeting, the girls dug deeper and did some research, sketching drawings and taking photos  of both the north and south playgrounds. Through the research process, the girls determined that both playgrounds actually needed swings and that an additional “climbing structure” should actually be added to the south playground to create more equity between it and the one on the north.

After a second meeting with Mitchell, the girls got the official approval to start working on making their “Swing to School” plan a reality. Right off the bat, they realized that they needed to raise funds. First, they presented their idea to the Cider Mill PTA on Oct. 20, and will likely make a grant request to that group once they do more research on the cost of the equipment. The students also asked their principal to meet with district financial and building/maintenance administrators to see if any district funds might be available to support the project.

But perhaps most importantly, they have committed their own personal sweat-equity, by planning a bake sale to be held on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3 outside Cider Mill School, which is one of Wilton’s voting precincts. The girls know they’ll also need to do other fundraisers beyond the bake sale, and have brainstormed other ideas, but according to Gretchen Mancuso, one of the girls’ moms who is helping out, the results of next Tuesday’s bake sale and the price of whatever swings eventually get selected will drive what is next.

“I am so proud of these girls. Our ultimate goal is to have students write and talk publicly for authentic purposes with the intent of making ‘change’ happen. This group of motivated girls identified a meaningful issue–based on their personal experiences at lunchtime–that not having enough swings on the north playground was causing problems and discontent during recess,” says Mitchell, who adds that this kind of learning is critical.

“In the end, it is about growing creative problem-solvers who can think strategically and determine how to implement action that is designed to create change.”

Seems like they will be creating changes, judging by one more thing that Mitchell said:  Hooray to our group of innovative girls leading the ‘Swing to School’ project. I have a strong feeling that by the end of this process, we may indeed have additional playground equipment at Cider Mill School!

To support the girls, visit their bake sale on Tuesday, Nov. 3, at Cider Mill School.