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Verner Elementary 6th-graders 'redesign' park in Verona

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By Chasity Capasso
Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Ashlee Cosentino's sixth-grade math class at Verner Elementary School worked as amateur architects to “reinvent” Cribb's Field in Verona.

Students were told that, fictitiously, the park was going to be demolished. They then had to reinvent the park, using computation, research and creativity.

Eight groups at the school in the Riverview School District worked on the project for a month and a half. Then, they wrote to Verona Mayor David Ricupero, asking him to consider changes to Cribb's Field.

Cosentino said the class recently completed a math unit that “taught students how to find the area and perimeter or circumference of many shapes such as triangles, circles, rectangles” and other shapes.

“I wanted to expand on student learning and show my kids that math isn't just used for a grade on their report card or for them to apply a formula to a test,” she said. “They were presented with a real-life problem: ‘How can I use the information from math class to better Cribb's Field for the Verona community?' ”

The students drew their plans to scale and detailed models of what a park could look like.

Students and staff voted on their three favorite models, and the winning designs were presented last week to Verona Council. The models also are on display at the borough building.

One idea that caught council members' interest was adding a concession stand to the park.

Council member Rhoda Worf said this is the third year that Cosentino's students have done the project.

“Basically, we have a sixth-grade teacher having her math class use measurements and design to make a difference in the community,” Worf said. “Last year, they did a similar project, and we ended up using one of their ideas, which was installing a fountain.”

This year, “We thought the snack bar idea was great,” she added. “They came up with ready-made, accurate plans for the framework.”

Cosentino said many students use the popular Cribb's Field, but it “is starting to become outdated and lacks a few essentials.”

All three groups of students proposed a concession stand, and borough officials seemed excited about it and said they would inquire about pricing, she said.

Ciara Hoover, 11, said the assignment “was a good chance to present what our sixth-grade minds could do. We want to make a difference in the community even though we are so young.”

“The project helped me to see my surroundings in a better way and showed me how to use math in real-life situations,” Hoover said.

For Ashley Pitano, 12, the presentation was nerve-racking but “we explained what we wanted to do to the park, and it got us excited.”

“We told the council that we planned on using the concession stand for certain community activities, and that we wanted an area to grill hot dogs and sell pop and snacks,” Pitano said.

Cribb's Field is one of two main parks in Verona. It has two baseball fields, a basketball court, batting cage, horseshoe pit, bocce court and a playground.

Chasity Capasso is a freelance writer.

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