'Rhinos' visit Landers Elementary

‘Rhinos' visit Landers Elementary

LCpl Anna Steever, water purification specialist, Engineer Company, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, watches Alyvia Rasted, 2nd grader, throw a basketball during an Adopt-a-School event held at Landers Elementary School June 3, 2014. The students were separated into groups based on the color shirt they wore and each group had a mix of children from kindergarten to 6th grade. Photo by Cpl Lauren A. Kurkimilis.

TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. (June 3, 2014) - A swarm of children buzzed about the fenced-in dirt and concrete play area, spilling a sea of vibrant color onto the desert. The boys and girls collected in color-coordinated clans, resembling co-ed tribes of Peter Pan's lost boys. The sounds of laughter and joy steadily built in a crescendo of school year's end celebration, and peppered into this kaleidoscope of fun and games were spots of olive drab green and desert tan.

Combat Center Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 374 volunteered in an Adopt-a-School event at Landers Elementary School, Tuesday. The Marines served as leaders for each group of children and navigated the students through nearly a dozen fun-filled stations.

"I think it's wonderful to have the Marines out here today," said Vicky Chambless, physical education teacher, Landers Elementary School. "The kids really look forward to seeing them and they really look up to them. It's good to have their presence here to help out."

The day began with the lower and upper grades having separate field days. The nine field day stations consisted of activities, which used skills the children worked on throughout the year from Frisbee golf and beach volleyball to obstacle courses and pool noodle javelin throws.

"We get to hang out with the Marines, play outside all day and do lots of stations and different activities outside of the class," said Austin Simms, 10. "That's why it's so much fun."

The students weren't only celebrating getting out of their classrooms for the day, but also the quickly approaching last day of school.

"Next Wednesday is the last day of school and this is sort of a tradition for the end of the year," Chambless said. "The teachers are wrapping up their lessons and the kids have worked so hard on the lessons. This is just a fun activity for the kids to do to get in the summer spirit."

In the afternoon, when the day seemed the hottest, the event metamorphosed. After the students returned from lunch, they discovered a whole new field day where every activity tested them in one thing; how to become completely drenched from head to toe. The recess area had been transformed into an interactive soak-you-to-the-bone splash zone and the Marines were the primary conductors of the water orchestra.

"It's great to be out here with the kids and support the community, even if it does get us soaked," said LCpl Anna Steever, water purification specialist, Engineer Company, MWSS 374. "I like being out here because, personally, I love being around kids. It reminds me of being around my little cousins and my family."

In between celebrating small victories, eating watermelon and trying to splash the Marines at any given chance, the children asked the Marines questions about the Marine Corps, different jobs in the Corps, and why the Marines wanted to join.

"I think the kids benefit from the Marines being here because the Marines are a different kind of leader than their teachers," Chambless said. "I think it's thrilling for them to have these guys and girls that they look up to out here. I think it makes the field day special."

The Marines said they were happy to volunteer their time to interact with the children and expressed the importance of the Combat Center reaching out to the community.

"I think this is a great experience, coming out here and interacting with the kids," said LCpl Quari Pullin, heavy equipment operator, Engineer Co., MWSS 374. "It lets us give back to the community. It's good for the kids to be around Marines and other service members so we can let them know that we really do care about them and to give them a positive image of us."

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