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They’re Not Playing Around

Wayside students raise money for playground equipment.

For Wayside student Ariel Wassertzug, 5 1/2, raising money this Saturday will be easy. “I’m a monkey on the monkey bars,” she said.

Wassertzug is one of the students who will participate in “Witness Fitness II” at the school on Saturday to raise money for playground equipment at Wayside’s sister school, New Hampshire Estates Elementary in Silver Spring.

The program started last year when Wayside students went to physical education teacher Carl Leverenz and complained about the playground equipment.

Leverenz found out that the school was slated for a playground renovation in 2013, but the students wanted something sooner. “They decided to raise the money themselves,” Leverenz said.

So the school held the first Witness Fitness event last spring, and raised $53,000 through direct donations and matching donations from businesses, said Leverenz.

Students would go to parents and friends and would get pledges from them for completing the obstacle course.

The course is not timed, Leverenz said, and students may go through it as many times as they wish.

Leverenz developed the obstacle course and uses the students’ time in his class to have them “train” to go through the course. “I can integrate the subjects I teach,” Leverenz said, “developing sports skills and fitness levels.”

The money the students raised last year purchased new equipment which Wayside’s students play on now.

This year, the students wanted to do something for a different school. “It’s about children helping children,” Leverenz said.

This year, the students will raise money for New Hampshire Estates Elementary in Silver Spring. “Our playground last year was exactly the playground they have this year,” said Lisa Katz, vice president Wayside’s PTA.

The students are happy to be helping out. “We’re trying to raise the money for another school,” said Jonathan Lee, 5.

Larger lessons are also being learned, say Leverenz and Katz. “It’s given these children a sense of purpose, a sense of pride,” Leverenz said.

“It’s also making them aware that they don’t live in a bubble,” Katz said. “There’s other children out there.”