By Mary O’KEEFE
Eagle Scout projects are challenging and are normally done toward the end of a Boy Scout’s high school career. One local eighth grade Scout however felt he was up to the challenge – and Mountain Avenue Elementary School will be the beneficiary.
“I originally wanted to start a playground somewhere,” said Scout Michael Johnson.
Johnson is a Boy Scout with Troop 390 that meets at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in La Crescenta. He has worked hard since joining Scouts as a Cub Scout to get the badges that lead to the rank of Eagle Scout.
Going for the Eagle rank is a natural progression of achievement in Scouting. With a playground project in mind Johnson went to local parks but found there was no room for what he wanted to do. He then turned to a school in his neighborhood, Mountain Avenue Elementary.
“I gave him a list of [possible projects],” said Principal Rebeca Witt.
“Principal Witt gave me a list of seven things. One of the things was a playground. I knew that was it,” Johnson said.
The playground is for sick and injured children. Prior to the project children who are unable to be part of regular recess due to injuries, like a broken leg or arm, would sit at the front of the school on stone benches.
Johnson is making an oasis that includes a magnetic marble sculpture/game and a water wheel.
“There will be two tables in the area in front of the school,” he explained. “near the red brick wall we have two big plates with magnets with a marble run and a water wheel will power the marble elevator run.”
“It is a very ambitious project,” Witt said. “It is very student oriented and has made a difference in our entry.”
The water wheel is what inspired the project, Johnson said.
“We go to the Pageant of the Masters [in Laguna] each year,” said Johnson’s father Mike. “They had a water wheel there.”
But Johnson had to do some adjusting of his original plan.
“I started planning in June of last year,” he said. “The original plan was to put four tables in but that became too expensive.”
He also was going to put grass in the dirt area near the tables but that was changed also.
“That is part of the [Eagle] project – to adjust to changes,” Johnson added.
The Scout took every adjustment in stride and came up with creative solutions. Instead of grass there is red bark and plants. Two tables fit nicely in the area and stone benches that were once going to be discarded now fit perfectly against one of the walls.
To raise money, Johnson held a talent show at the school that featured past students as well as adults.
After all the planning and fundraising he began the actual construction on the project last weekend.
He got a few of his Scout friends together, along with some dads. Part of the Eagle project has Scouts in charge of Scouts. Johnson worked hard to keep his friends on task and found that once they were full of energizing donuts they worked steadily to the end.
The project is almost complete. Johnson has raised a little over $500 for the project and has garnered donations from Matt Sanders from Hollywood Iron Works and Fergus Foley who supplied all the stain glass for the water wheel.
Johnson will also be purchasing board games to help keep the kids busy as they recover.
“The area is highly impacted on a daily basis,” Witt said.
She added that with 530 students at the school a majority of students probably have had to sit out a recess due to injury or illness at least once during their elementary career.
“[Michael] didn’t even attend Mountain Avenue but his sense of community is perfect,” Witt said.