Delhi sixth-graders build structure for playground

Shweta Karikehalli | The Daily Star Rocco Schnabel, 12, Alessia Ghersi, 11, and Abigail Tessier, 11, work together to cut and measure wood that will be used for the alligator structure’s head at the Village of Delhi community playground at the American Legion on Thursday.

Led by SUNY Delhi assistant professor Max Dehne, a group of Delaware Academy sixth-graders will soon accomplish their goal of designing and building a playground structure for the Village of Delhi community playground at the American Legion.

In the fall of 2018, SUNY Delhi Assistant Professor Max Dehne started a “Design & Build” club for the sixth-graders. Dehne used to work for the nonprofit DownCity Design, which had similar goals of including community in designing and building, he said.

The group of students has been working since the fall on transforming an empty space in the playground into the structure they designed. The group met each Thursday after school and made drawings and Lego models, presented their design to the town council, discussed materials and began to build and install the structure — a large, wooden multi-level obstacle course in the shape of an alligator — about a month ago. 

“They spent this whole year designing and now building and installing this playground feature,” said Dehne. “The kids have been the driving force behind the project.”

The project was made possible by assistance from O’Connor Hospital, Complete Streets and the Delhi Rotary Club, among others, he said. Architecture students from SUNY Delhi also helped by acting as teaching assistants, which Dehne said was a good opportunity for the college students to teach design. 

Alessia Ghersi, 11, said the transition from building paper airplanes, slingshots and catapults at the beginning of the program to now working with concrete, cutting wood and using tools she’d once thought were dangerous and loud was one of the coolest parts of the whole process. She said she’s also always been an avid builder and was excited to help out the community by doing just that. 

Abigail Tessier, 11, said she has been a regular at the playground since she was younger and has fond memories of playing on the slide with her sister. 

“I just thought it’d be cool to make an attachment to the playground,” she said. 

Dehne said the intent is to finish building the structure by next week so that it can coincide with the opening of Delhi’s new community pool, which is located next to the playground. 

Shweta Karikehalli, staff writer, can be reached at 607-441-7221 or skarikehalli@thedailystar.com. Follow her on Twitter at @DS_ShwetaK.