SPRINGDALE – A new story walk at Murphy Park is designed to encourage children to read and spend more time outdoors being active.
The walk, which features the pages of a book mounted on wooden panels spread throughout the park, was unveiled Friday to a group of third graders from Westwood Elementary School.
The project is the result of a partnership between Springdale Public Schools Education Accelerated Service and Technology (EAST) programs at Tyson Middle, Southwest Junior High, and Springdale High; the University of Arkansas for medical sciences; and the Springdale Department of Parks and Recreation.
Tyson Middle School EAST seventh graders Miranda Keen, Evelyn Campuzano, and Gabe Bentley came up with the concept of the story walk while brainstorming ideas to address issues of childhood obesity and low reading, they said.
“We decided to kill two birds with one stone and use the story walk to get people outside and walk around and increase their reading,” Miranda said.
The more advanced the technology, the more time people spend indoors, Gabe said. He noted that he spent a lot of time in his room watching YouTube videos. Working on the project made him more aware of the problem and led him to encourage others to spend more time outdoors as well.
“To be honest, there is nothing more beautiful than the outside world,” he said.
The students began researching the project in August, before taking their idea to the city and the university to seek funding, said Brittany Berry, EAST facilitator at Tyson Middle School.
The story walk consists of 16 panels spread out about 40 feet apart. Each wooden panel contains a two-page expanse of a book, Berry said. The books will be changed monthly and will be aimed at children in kindergarten through third grade, she said.
About 40 EAST students participated in the project, Berry said. Students from Springdale High School will help maintain the signs, and students from Southwest Junior High help create prints to spin, she said.
Berry said the project taught his students time management, organization, communication skills, reading and writing, as well as how to teach others, prepare a budget, make professional presentations and to appeal to professional partners.
EAST is a classroom where students use a variety of technologies to solve a problem in their community, Berry said. Seeing their projects come to life in the community is transformational as they develop real-world skills, she said.
Parks Superintendent Zack Walls said the city is pleased to partner with the EAST program for the project. It will be the first of its kind in that part of the state, he said.
The Parks Department already had much of the equipment needed to make history work, and the entire project cost less than $2,000, including labor, he said.
“Anytime we can partner with the school system to improve the park and create a new opportunity, it helps us and the community,” Walls said.
UAMS is always looking for ways to collaborate and keep the community physically active and create better health, said Katie McCraney, UAMS Project Manager.
“The History Walk is a great opportunity to engage the community at all ages while promoting physical activity,” she said.