Vestaburg High School senior builds a musical playground

By Lori Hansen • Last Updated 11:34 am on Monday, November 28, 2016

Nathaniel Nisonger and some of the Vestaburg Great Start Readiness Program students pose with the new musical playground structure Nisonger donated to the group’s playground. — Courtesy photo

VESTABURG — Nathaniel Nisonger is a senior at Vestaburg High School, yet he still spends a lot of time at the Vestaburg Great Start Readiness Program Preschool.

There are sentimental ties. The current teacher was once his first grade teacher, and his younger brother was in the program last year.

Nisonger, 17, began volunteering at the school to garner community service hours for the National Honor Society (NHS). After Great Start teacher Karen Gostomski wrote a letter to parents requesting help for finances to build a playground structure and the labor to build it, Nisonger took the project upon himself to complete.

“I’d been volunteering and liked it and continued doing it this year,” said Nisonger, the son of Sara Morey and Chad Nisonger. “Then when I needed to do a project to complete my Eagle Scout service project, it was an inspiration for me to do something to help them out.”

Nisonger, who along with NHS and volunteering, and his studies at Vestaburg, also is dual enrolled at Montcalm Community College, runs cross country and track, plays basketball, played football, was on the drama team and participates on the quiz team.

The five-foot square wooden structure contains chimes made out of PVC pipe on one side, chimes made out of aluminum on another, coffee can bongos on a third and a big trash can lid as a gong on the fourth. Wooden spoons are used for mallets for the chimes, while the bongos are hit with hands, and a mallet is used for the gong. The different materials lend themselves to creating different tones.

Vestaburg Great Start Readiness Program students enjoy making music on a playground structure created and built by Nathaniel Nisonger.

“Great Start Readiness Program has certain qualifications we have to meet set by the state,” said Gostomski, who has taught in the Vestaburg school system for 27 years, the past 20 at the pre-school level. “One thing we are supposed to do is have two 30-minute recesses per day. It is part of our outdoor learning. Being able to add a music component to that outdoor learning is just outstanding.”

From the conception of the idea to fund-raising for monies to purchase supplies, Nisonger estimated put in 20-plus hours, with another 16 hours of actual construction.

“I came up with the idea, created a plan and then had to ask for donations, but mostly just purchased supplies myself,” said Nisonger, estimating he spent $250 on materials. “My grandpa, Ed Morey, helped guide me with the construction, and my brother Christian, another Boy Scout, helped with the actual construction.”

The project started in August and was completed in mid-November, with Nisonger working around his school schedules.

“I just like helping out, and hanging out with the kids,” he said, “Sometimes I help serve them breakfast, or play with them or just talk to them. Maybe one will be at the store with their mom, and they see me and give me a big ole hug around the legs, and it’s great.”

Besides the 36 students in the Great Start program, there are 30 children in Headstart, and other students who can use the musical structure, according to Gostomski.

“The kids are using it, and think it is great,” she said. “They just love it.”

Correspondent Lori Hansen is a Greenville-area resident.

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