After their efforts to win a $300,000 Boundless Playground - an elaborate structure that allows every child regardless of physical ability to reach the highest play deck - ended with winning third place in an essay contest, a group of Elvehjem Elementary School parents, staff and administrators are nevertheless forging ahead with a smaller-scale accessible playground at the school. They hope to break ground for the sensory-rich structure, the first of its kind in Wisconsin, complete with ramps, sunshades, designated "cozy spots" and a poured-in-place rubber surface, in August. The group already has gathered statewide support and in-kind donations, and has lined up a series of monthly fund-raisers to help reach its $200,000 goal. At Pottery Night on Jan. 11, families can create their own chili bowls for $10 each from 6 to 8 pm at the east-side school, 5106 Academy Drive, and then eat from them at the Chili Supper Night on Feb. 29.
"We know $200,000 is a very scary figure - especially when the Madison school district has a huge budget deficit," says Kelli Betsinger, co-chair of LVM Dreams Big, whose son Noah is in second grade and one of several Elvehjem students who use wheelchairs or walkers. "We can't put this on the school district, because it's just trying to keep paper in the copy machines right now. But this is an area where we can step up and make something happen. Where there's a will, there's a way." For more details, visit playgroundsupport.com or call 658-1773 to reserve a pottery spot.
Avoid post-holiday mind melts with Saturday Science Workshops at the UW Space Place, 2300 S. Park St., in the Villager Mall. Throughout January, children ages 6-10 and their parents can participate in hands-on experiments involving physics (Jan. 5), astronomy (Jan. 12 and 26) and chemistry (Jan. 19). Since the workshops began years ago as part of the university astronomy department's education and public outreach initiative, the events have broadened in scope to include other science topics - as well as, oddly enough, the UW music department. Following the workshops, participants can browse Space Place's science, history and amateur radio exhibits, ask questions or experiment on their own. All programs begin at 10 am and are free. Visit www.spaceplace.org or call 262-4779 for details.
Who knows when we'll have another winter like this? So get out and enjoy it. Weather and snow conditions permitting, candlelight skis are scheduled at Lake Kegonsa State Park, 2405 Door Creek Rd. in Stoughton, on Jan. 12 and Feb. 9, and at Governor Nelson State Park, located on the north shore of Lake Mendota in Waunakee, on Saturday, Jan. 26. Groomed cross-country ski trails will be lit with hundreds of glowing luminaria. The evenings will be capped with a bonfire, hot chocolate and baked goodies. All events run from 6 to 9 pm. Call 873-9695 or 831-3005 with any questions. Meanwhile, Nature Net and Madison School & Community Recreation will host an Eco-Trek on Jan. 20 at Cherokee Marsh, Dane County's largest wetlands area. Details are still in the works, but expect a hands-on experience with the assistance of skilled guides and naturalists. Call 221-2575 or 204-3000 for details.