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Park project in place

September 07, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

BOONSBORO - The Maryland state schools superintendent was on hand Friday for a ceremony kicking off of a yearlong community service project in which local students make improvements to Boonsboro's Shafer Park.

"I am really excited to be here with all of you," State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick told about 100 Boonsboro Elementary School fourth-grade students at a one-hour ceremony at the park. "I can't wait to see what you will be doing."

"The Shafer Park Millennium Makeover Project" is part of the Milken Family Foundation Festival for Youth, a nationwide program created to encourage youth to do community service projects.

It is the first Milken-sponsored project in Maryland. The California-based foundation is only sponsoring 34 projects in the United States this year, said spokesman Johnny Cho.

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The foundation also honors individual teachers, including about 20 in Maryland in the last seven years.

In 1996 Jeanne Ecton, a Boonsboro Elementary School teacher, was named a Milken Educator Award recipient. She was asked to develop a proposal for a Milken project, and the result is the community and education program at Shafer Park.

The foundation is giving the district $8,500 to pay for project expenses. Paul Windell, program coordinator, handed a check for some of that amount to Eaton during Friday's ceremony.

The foundation would not have funded the project if it wasn't for the work of Eaton, Windell said. She was also the focus of much attention by others at Friday's ceremony.

"I feel great. It is just wonderful. It is great to be noticed," Ecton said later. She taught biology for 22 years at North Hagerstown High School and was named Maryland biology teacher of the year in 1990, but now teaches second through fifth grades at Boonsboro Elementary.

"The kids are ready and willing to go. They love it," said. They are just excited to be getting out of class and do not realize yet that the project will touch on all educational subjects, from writing to science, she said.

The fourth-grade students at Friday's event will participate in the project with about 60 Boonsboro High School students, Ecton said.

While the elementary school students were attentive at times during the ceremony, they showed more enthusiasm upon hearing there were refreshments than when responding to Washington County Board of Education speakers, which included the superintendent and board president.

As part of the project, the elementary school students will design and plant gardens, watch for erosion problems and paint benches and curbs, she said.

High school students taking wood shop and metal shop classes will build an outdoor multi-purpose theater that could be used for poetry readings and puppet shows, she said. High school students in a horticulture class will make suggestions on what should be planted at the park, she said.

"We are very excited about this project. Not only is it providing a unique learning experience for our students, but it is also benefiting the Boonsboro community," Principal Melissa Warren said.

Boonsboro Mayor Charles F. "Skip" Kauffman told the students that he'd always viewed the park as a recreational facility but is going to start seeing it as an educational one instead.

"It's your park. Enjoy it," he told the students.

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