April 11, 2018

MIAMI DOLPHINS/Contributed
Members of the Miami Dolphins organization build a new playground at Ocean Studies Charter School.

MIAMI DOLPHINS/Contributed Members of the Miami Dolphins organization build a new playground at Ocean Studies Charter School.

TAVERNIER — When Ocean Studies Charter School students were given crayons and paper to draw a playground, their imaginations had no limit.

THERESA JAVA/Free Press
From left, Riley, Piper and Zane show their playground designs that came to fruition with a grant awarded by KaBOOM! and funded through its community partner, the Miami Dolphins.

About two months later, KaBOOM!, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of children, through its funding partner, the Miami Dolphins Foundation, made the students’ dreams come true.

About 2,400 square feet of school property was transformed Saturday, April 7, to include an AstroTurf football field, tether ball, a stage, garden and more.

It was Zane’s drawing of a football field that inspired that playground feature. He plays baseball, basketball and soccer but isn’t on a football team, he said.

It was Riley’s rendering of a zipline that inspired a monorail. “You hang from it and it slides back and forth. It’s not scary,” she said.

Piper drew a rock-climbing wall and enthusiastically nodded yes when asked if she liked to climb.

It was about a week before the school year began that teachers and staff at Ocean Studies Charter School were disheartened to learn that the ropes and tires that served as the school playground had been removed for safety reasons.

Getting a new playground was a priority for the school, according to Principal Abbie Freeman. She had planned to raise funds to make it happen since Ocean Studies is a tuition-free public charter school.

“We had a playground before that we had to take out before school started because of safety concerns. Then Hurricane Irma hit and we had to nix fundraising for the playground and focus on getting the school back together,” Freeman said

But when teacher Jessica Martinez heard that KaBOOM! had reached out to the school, she applied for a grant from the national organization.

“It was Nov. 11 to be precise because I remember thinking that writing a grant on Nov. 11 would be good luck. Ms. Carol had had mentioned a call from a company called KaBOOM! a week earlier, wanting to help. It was said just in passing really, but it had stuck with me and I asked Ms. Carol to send any info from them on to me,” Martinez wrote on Ocean Studies website.

“The next few months were focused on interviews and meetings, proving need and community support. An amazing group of Ocean Studies families, teachers and staff dedicated their time to continuously come in time and after time to tell their stories, rally behind our school and fight for their kid’s right to a playground.”

Freeman agreed that as the school was pared down as a finalist, there were plenty of teachers, parents and board members heavily involved in advocating for the funding.

MIAMI DOLPHINS/Contributed
Miami Dolphins alumnus and Senior Vice President of Special Projects Nat Moore leveled the concrete foundation during the Ocean Studies Charter School playground installation Saturday.

 

The Miami Dolphins became involved in building the playground as a KaBOOM! partner

“The Miami Dolphins are stewards to the community. We are excited to be part of this, and offer our support to create something that will put smiles on the faces of kids in the community,” Miami Dolphins Senior Vice President Jason Jenkins said. “It’s important to the owner of our team, Stephen Ross, the coaches, players and the cheerleaders. We are invested in strengthening communities and families and will continue to be. We are working on some other things down the road.”

A Miami Dolphins bus left the stadium at 5:45 a.m. Saturday en route to Tavernier with about 125 members of the organization aboard.

Ally, a Miami Dolphins cheerleader, said she grew up visiting the Florida Keys and was excited to be a part of a playground build. Her 29-member team has donated proceeds from its 100-page swimsuit and lifestyle book, the Annual, to rebuilding efforts from Hurricane Irma.

The book was photographed throughout the Keys and Miami.

“This started out as a calendar and has grown to a book. I went to a photoshoot in Key West. It was fun. I had to take a ferry out to Sunset Key, which was absolutely beautiful,” Ally said.

This was the second build led by the Miami Dolphins.

Principal Freeman was pleased with the results.

“It’s freeze tag meets the coral reef with a Miami Dolphins-inspired look. The colors are the Miami Dolphins,” she said.

The playground will be open to the community after 6 p.m. weekdays and during the day on weekends, she said.

Ocean Studies Charter School, which has 112 kindergarten through fifth grade students, bills itself as an experiential learning environment with a marine science focus. To learn more, visit oceanstudiescharterschool.org.

tjava@keysnews.com