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Breaking Ground: The LSU Community Playground Project

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Experiences in Engineering Community Engagement

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.248.1 - 23.248.13



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Paper Authors


Marybeth Lima Louisiana State University

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Dr. Marybeth Lima is a professor in Biological and Agricultural Engineering at LSU and is also the director for the LSU Center for Community Engagement, Learning and Leadership.

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The LSU Community Playground Project was formed in 1998 with regard to Biology in Engineering, afirst-year, required design course in biological engineering, which is a service-learning andcommunication intensive course. In this course, students are placed into groups of 3-4 and each sectionof the course (usually 2-3 sections) is assigned to a local public school. Students collaborate with thestudents, staff, and administration at the school, and sometimes the broader community, to develop“dream playground” designs at the school, with the children, the true experts at play, at the center ofthe design process. Each student team completes an iterative playground design and presents it througha short oral poster presentation to the school community; a detailed technical report is also submittedto the instructor. After the semester is over, the faculty member in charge of the Playground Projectworks with a committed student team and the school community to consolidate the designs developedfor each school into one, and to procure funds to build the playground, usually through a volunteer buildprocess. Approximately 33% of students enrolled in the course volunteer to build the playground thatthey designed on paper. These efforts have resulted in 28 local playgrounds being constructed thatserve approximately 10,000 children every school day. In this paper, the author will (1) present theservice-learning model used to develop this course, including how this model evolved over time tobetter meet both student and community needs, (2) share pertinent data, including communityengagement indicators, student retention, and percentage of alumni who are active in communityengagement, and (3) discuss major lessons learned during the course of 15 years as a communityengaged faculty member.

Lima, M. (2013, June), Breaking Ground: The LSU Community Playground Project Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19262

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