Plaza aims to fuel patriotism

Space mixes play with learning

mgaytan@losbanosenterprise.comNovember 18, 2013 

Patriot Plaza in the center of R.M. Miano Elementary School is shaping up as a place to honor veterans, instill pride and serve as a teaching tool.

“We felt that this is a worthwhile project,” said Sergio de Alba, the sixth-grade science teacher who is heading the effort. “Not only does it provide for an area for our students to eat, and hang out, but there’s a lot of different parts to this that are going to be part of their education.”

The collaboration among de Alba, staff and administration has been going on for months at a school that serves more than 900 kindergarten through sixth-graders. The plaza aims to educate and serve as a place of contemplation.

Concrete benches in a circular design lead out to smaller individual projects. The center of the plaza will feature a multifaced clock tower. This will be added at a later date. Also in the center, etched into the ground, is a triangle that represent the three branches of government: executive; legislative and judicial.

There are also small trails that have footprints of zoo animals for students to study, he said. Along with the footprints, de Alba also printed leaves into the concrete with the same idea; that students will see them, learn them and remember them. A small sandbox has been created at one end of the plaza for younger students to use. It has several shapes imprinted into the walls to engage students to learn while they play, he said.

“Before, we would have the little kids digging where the intermediate kids run,” he said. “So now, they’ll have a special place for them to dig.”

A rock collection has been started surrounding the plaza for intermediate science lessons. “Starting with the Common Core (curriculum), there’s a lot more thinking,” he said, “so being able to come out here and do outdoor lessons, makes it a much more powerful opportunity.”

In the middle of each bench, surrounding the clock tower, an American flag will be displayed on every flag holiday, he said.

On the other end of the plaza, a makeshift amphitheater is being created for storytime, plays or performances. Surrounding the entire plaza will be red, white and blue flowers.

Sixth-grade student Sienna Hampton, 11, who was one of many students helping to form the sandbox after school Wednesday night, said seeing the plaza and the flags makes her feel good. She also said that having something like this on campus shows how much the school cares about the nation.

De Alba said the project would not have been possible without student support, parent volunteers, the community’s help and a shared vision with the staff and principal.

“Our principal has been very supportive in getting this project done,” he said. “Because of his support, we were able to finish it so quickly.”

Principal Antonio Rosales said although it was a time-consuming process, the project was necessary because they are always striving to improve the campus.

“Many parents gave up their weekends to help with this project,” he added, “so it was much appreciated.”

He is looking forward to using it for many of their assemblies and outdoor events.

A number of businesses in the community donated product, time or services, with around $10,000 worth of work still needed to finish. Organizers are hoping for a December completion, just in time to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary in 2014. “Students need to realize that they need to appreciate being Americans,” de Alba said. “This is going to be a constant reminder as to how lucky they are to live in a country where, if they work hard, they can achieve any goal.”

De Alba still needs funds for soil, cinder block, additional concrete and tile for a mosaic wall.

The public can purchase commemorative brick blocks. For more information, call the school at (209) 826-3877.

Reporter Marina Gaytan can be reached at (209) 826-3831 ext. 6562 or

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