Hundreds of University of Southern Mississippi students, faculty and staff fanned out across the Hattiesburg area last Saturday, April 2 to volunteer as part of the second annual Big Event, considered the largest one-day community service initiative in the state of Mississippi.
Several local human service agencies, schools, parks and churches benefited from the work of the volunteers, which included cleaning, painting, landscaping and other projects. One those agencies was The Center for Child Development (CCD) located on the Southern Miss Hattiesburg campus.
The CCD is an academic/teaching and research facility for faculty and students across the university and serves children from birth to five years and their families in a quality childcare environment. It is in the process of transforming its playground into a natural playscape that will be used as an outdoor classroom for children ages two months to five years.
Dr. Sheila Brookes, executive director of the CCD, envisions an outdoor educational area that further promotes learning. “This project would not be possible without the support of local businesses and volunteers,” Brookes said. “It’s extremely exciting to see the fruits of our labor.”
Saturday’s workday was the first of many to come in which faculty, staff, parents, students and other volunteers will gather to work toward transforming the CCD playground areas.
Goals for the project include establishing areas designated for dramatic play, garden-related activities, tunnels for tricycle riding (including tricycle safety instruction) and decks with adequate space for children to listen as one of their favorite books is read to them by a member of the CCD staff.
The CCD provides education in multiple settings—including outside on the tri-level playground. Children at the CCD engage in outdoor art, math and science activities, physical education and team-based activities.
In addition to volunteers involved with The Big Event, contributors of both labor and materials include Bill Murdock for landscape design; Lance and Lewis Myrick of Economy Supply for deck-building lumber; Robert Burgess, Jimmy Wigley and ‘Big Al’ from Hanson Pipe and Products for pipe used for two tricycle tunnels; Larry and Jill Creel from Hattiesburg Hardscape for stepping stone rocks; David Nobles and Mike Garner of Heritage Lawn and Garden Center for plant materials; Jimmy Stewart of Boral Brick for pavers; Lyn Gibson from Home Depot for pavers; and Scott Chambliss for topsoil delivery.
For more information about the CCD and how to help support its playscape project, call the center at 601.266.5294; online, visit http://www.usm.edu/childandfamilystudies/child_development_center/index.htm