St. Mark's School, a Catholic school located near the University of St. Thomas' St. Paul campus, will unveil a new "Peaceful Playground" this week, thanks to a grant it received from St. Thomas' 2010 Gibney Awards.
The Gibney Awards, selected by students in UST's Opus College of Business, are named for local business owners Chris and Jackie Gibney. The Gibneys provided a $30,000 fund, first awarded in 2009, for undergraduate students to learn more about the joys of philanthropy. This year's student award board evaluated 119 applications from nonprofit organizations that work with children. St. Mark's received one of the four $5,000 awards at a luncheon last winter.
Peaceful Playgrounds is a blueprint kit that transformed a parking lot at St. Mark's with colorful games and maps. It comes with training materials about conflict resolution and classroom activities. The intent is to maximize the number of students involved in physical activity, provide education in new formats, enhance classroom performance and reduce playground confrontations.
Volunteers gathered to paint the asphalt earlier this month, and the unveiling party is scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 24. The Gibney family, the UST student award board, and neighbors, families and St. Mark's alumni are invited.
St. Mark's physical education teacher Michele Egan, who lives near the school and is a 1966 graduate of St. Mark's, said "Peaceful Playgrounds falls right in line with my goals as a teacher – high-level participation, all skill levels, sports and lifetime skills. It was just out of our grasp until now."
The playground will be available for use by the Merriam Park community as well as by the school, and it will be a safe place for homeless children to play during August, when St. Mark's serves as a family shelter overflow location.