Monticello Bridge Project Inspires Two Thumbs Up

   

Monticello Bridge Project Inspires Two Thumbs Up
8/6/2013 3:35:27 PM

Students of EAST at Monticello Intermediate School were inspired by a fellow EAST classmate to clean up the school’s nature trail, which had not been tended to in years and was inaccessible to wheelchair visitors. EAST students worked to clean up the trail and reconstruct a bridge, in order to make the nature trail fun for everyone.

Students of EAST at Monticello Intermediate School were inspired by a fellow EAST classmate to clean up the school’s nature trail. The trail had not been tended to in years and was inaccessible to wheelchair visitors. Over the next few weeks, EAST students worked to clean up the trail and reconstruct a bridge, in order to make the nature trail fun for everyone.

The EAST classroom first noticed this issue when their fellow EAST classmate, Matthew, was unable to enjoy the trail since he is in a wheelchair. "No big deal," said one EAST student. "We can clean it up and bring him back to the trail when it is done."

For several weeks, EAST students spent their recess time cleaning up the trail to make it possible for Matthew to visit. When it was finally cleared, the students went out again and Matthew was so excited to finally be able to enjoy it with his classmates. However, not too far down the path, the students encountered another problem. The bridge along the pathway was not wheelchair accessible either. 

So, the EAST students had another project in front of them. The students began designing a bridge using Trimble SketchUp. They visited with the school nurse and asked about the dimensions of a wheelchair and also measured one to make sure it would be wide enough. They spoke with several people and researched the specs for Americans with Disability Act (ADA) accessible bridges. It did not take them long to realize they had a big project on their hands. They wanted the bridge done correctly and wanted it to look nice. The students continued with their plan and designed a bridge while other EAST students headed back to the trail to clear out overgrown brush and trees and tear down the old bridge.

Jackson Hollis, EAST student and leader of the project initially said, "Let's start building the bridge." There was only one problem. There were no funds for construction tools and supplies. Then, Jehlyn Porch, another EAST student, immediately picked up the phone and called her mother, who works for Potlatch in Warren. Porch asked them to donate the lumber and poles to construct the bridge. They graciously agreed and delivered the materials to the students. Now, they just needed some help to make sure the bridge was constructed properly. 

After receiving the National Service Project award of $1,000 and help from several community members, the bridge became a reality in one day. EAST students were then given the name of a man, who builds ADA accessible structures in the community, Mr. Larry Gragg. EAST students gave up a picnic day at school to help Gragg construct the bridge and finish cleaning the trail.

The project became a little more special to the students the day they headed to the National EAST Conference in Hot Springs. Crystal Grimes, first year EAST facilitator at Monticello Intermediate School, received a call that Matthew had passed away. The students were about to present this project for the National Service Project competition and Grimes was unsure how to tell her students the difficult news. Needless to say, after telling the students the news, they immediately changed their speeches for the competition and decided to continue with the project in memory of Matthew. They had a newfound determination and had already come up with a name for the new bridge. It would be called "The Two Thumbs Up" bridge. Those who knew Matthew, knew that when meeting in the hall or seeing him in class, he would always have a big grin on his face and two thumbs up in the air.

“I am so proud of the students,” said Grimes. “They worked so hard on this project and wanted to make sure it was finished before school let out so all of the students and staff could go and walk across the bridge before summer began. This was a project that took time to complete. However, through determination, it was completed. I loved watching the students when they encountered a problem. There was never a moment when they thought this project was impossible. When they approached a problem, they worked hard and found a solution.”

The bridge is used by many in the community. However, the student’s main focus was to make sure every student at Monticello Intermediate School could access the trail. The students have written a grant for an outdoor classroom, which would take place on the trail.

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