Creekside Middle School’s P.A.R.K. First League Lego Robotics team members presented their ideas on accessibility in city parks to Woodstock Mayor Brian Sager on Monday afternoon.
The eighth graders in the Challenge Corps class for gifted students were challenged by First League to identify a problem within a building or public space and provide a solution with a new, innovative idea, teacher Kristina Hermensson said. The team invited Sager to give feedback on their ideas.
As members of the Best Buddies Program, accessibility is an issue that is important to these students. When many of them on the P.A.R.K. team were running cross-country in Emricson park, they noticed that accessibility in parks was restricted.
As state finalists, they will take their idea to the First Lego League state competition, to be held this weekend at Elgin Community College.
“I am pleased that they have engaged in this level of consideration to 1, improve their community, but to do so on an innovative basis,” Sager said.
In order to prepare for their presentation at the competition, students interviewed school teachers and Woodstock Economic Development Director Garrett Anderson, among others. Students role-played as lawyers, news reporters, councilmen, city workers, Americans with Disabilities Act workers and teachers to present their ideas.
The presentation began with a news reporter broadcasting a protest to make parks more accessible for handicapped children. During the presentation, they took the issue to a councilman who said the issue wasn’t a priority. The lawyers rebutted by disclosing that city parks do not comply with the ADA, during the hypothetical scenario.
During the council meeting, other members presented their ideas, which included swapping wood chips for an adventure turf, a tire-like cushiony surface that would make it easier for wheelchairs and disabled people.
Students also claimed that parks don’t have enough ramps and railings are not accessible. They presented a budget of $72,000 to make the changes to Emricson Park.
After their presentation, Sager did not hesitate to ask tough questions. His feedback, he said, was intended to help them, not criticize them.
Sager said to be careful about accusing the city of noncompliance with the ADA, saying students need to cite exactly which section they feel each issue doesn’t comply with in the law. Sager also told students that cost would be too high to implement their proposed changes in all city parks. He said it also would be difficult to convince council members that this issue is a priority compared with roads, which more people use on a daily basis as opposed to parks.
Sager said he will take some of these ideas into consideration for the city, but he didn’t specify which ideas.
“We’ll be having some conversation with staff and city colleagues what the possibilities might be.”