Waterman Street Dog Park (coming soon)
Friends of Waterman Street Dog Park
Contact: Suzanne Renfro or Elena Riverstone
Waterman Street Dog Park (coming soon)
Peace & Plenty Park
Contact Person: Doug Victor
Yesterday Kaboom! hosted a webinar discussing two ways that cities can
increase Playability, and wanted to provide you with a recording of order cialis online the
webinar in case you missed any part, or would like to share it with others.
On the webinar, members of the Partnership for Providence Parks discussed their
PlayCorps Program, which you can read more about here. We also encourage you to
visit and like the PlayCorps
When we nostalgically look back on our summer childhoods we talk a lot about freedom, but the actuality of being a kid involves lots of rules and regulations. Most of those rules come from adults and are of the ‘don’t run by the pool’ variety, but they also come from the games themselves (‘offsides,’ ‘travelling,’ ‘foul’). And sometimes trying to have fun in the midst of all those rules can be exhausting, and kids need a break from order. PlayCorps is distinct from all of the other recreational activities around Providence because it is one summer-long break from structure. Kids can create their own if they so desire, but we don’t impose the play rules, they do.
This week at Pastore Park, one of our play leaders, Greg, noticed that his bunch of regulars was chafing at the indignities of being children. They wanted to be free and wild and so within the safe contours of the Pastore Park basketball court he initiated “make a mess day,” an opportunity for them to create chaos in a contained space. When I first arrive it looked like all of our materials had exploded onto the basketball court, but when you look more closely you see signs of kids establishing their own forms of order .
In the pictures above
one young girl directs traffic and two older girls float on makeshift
rafts, carving out a calm space for themselves in the midst of “make a mess day.”
“Make a mess day” creates the space for the type of imaginary play which can’t flourish in structured spaces or during games with rules. Over here we have two boys fashioning these halved plastic drums into boats and “fishing’ on the basketball court.
To their left a small child hiding in a box plays “mouse.” While the PlayCorps team feeds him “cheese” in the form of loose parts, the other kids quickly adopt the game, creating hideouts in other scattered objects. In this picture one girl “pets” the mouse and then they both climb inside and feast off an old industrial spool of thread which has been transformed into a wheel of cheese.
Eating “Cheese” Taking Mouse House Building Seriously
While the smaller kids imagine in the middle of the basketball court the older kids continue to play on the hoops at either side. But they’re forced to create modified forms of basketball because they don’t have the whole court, to come up with their own rules for a standardized game. These two forms of play coexist far more peacefully than you might imagine. When one girl does get accidentally hit with a basketball (an event that occurs frequently in more structured settings as well) the boy responsible apologizes immediately. They are all very protective of this space that they’ve created and will do whatever they can to keep their chaotic ship sailing without adult intervention. And in turn we’re learning to step back and hand this business of play over to the people who take it the most seriously, the children themselves.
The PlayCorps team in Bucklin Park has established their home base underneath a sweeping maple, setting up their assortment
of boxes and loose parts, arts supplies and blocks in the shade beneath its branches. Although the kids are interested in the materials that we bring, the tree itself is the most exciting object of all.
When I arrive on a hazy humid Tuesday morning there are a group of girls huddled around the tree tossing a rope over a low hanging branch. Abel, our play leader, stands unobtrusively near them. He’s around if they need help, otherwise he’s trying to be invisible. He doesn’t want to get in the way of their play or “disrupt their playframe” to use the technical term. They do call on him to help tie the rope and they collectively make sure it’s secure and then he “puts on his invisibility cloak” again and seems to disappear even though he’s standing right beside them. The younger girl pulls herself up by the rope and snakes her leg over the tree branch while the older girl spots her from below. When she’s perched on top of the tree branch the older girl asks her, “do you know how to get down from there?” echoing the phrase that we use to make sure that kids are safe. “Yes,” the younger girl announces proudly. The older girl and the PlayCorps team are reassured. We’ve noticed the way she carefully and confidently climbed up, paying attention to safety and making responsible choices.
Most of us who work with children spend our days trying to eliminate risk, but in the process we’re creating hermetically sealed environments and preventing kids from engaging in the type of exploratory play that teaches them how to make good, safe decisions for themselves. We take safety seriously at PlayCorps of course (identifying and removing hazards from our sites, untying our rope swings when we leave the park) but we also try and create opportunities for kids to take healthy risks. And we believe tree climbing is one of them. When this group of girls turns a piece of twine, a block, and a sturdy tree branch into a swing they improve their motor skills, learn about fulcrums and levers, learn how to negotiate successfully with each other, problem solve, and perhaps most importantly make mature, informed decisions about safety. When the summer is over and our PlayCorps team leaves the parks, these kids will carry these skills with them as they continue to play by themselves in their neighborhoods.
We started this program with the belief that when you take kids seriously they take themselves seriously. In the two and a half weeks that we’ve been in Providence parks we’ve noticed again and again that when you give kids responsibility they make responsible decisions. Before these kids starting climbing and swinging they tested the rope in a variety of different ways to make sure it was safe. We’ve watched them check and re-tie knots, add extra ropes, and spot each other carefully and consistently. And we’ve watched them explore critical physics questions through trial and error. Once they settled on the idea of a rope swing they tied one end of the rope to a tree limb and then debated how to safely secure the other end. They tried attaching it to the ground which failed, they eliminated the possibility of tying the other end to the same tree limb, and then they settled on a basic fulcrum system. Although the PlayCorps workers helped throughout this process – they tied knots, tested for safety and operate the fulcrum – they refused to solve the problem for the kids. As Abel, the play leader explains, “this is your thing, you need to figure out how to do it. We’ll tie knots for you and help you throw the block over the tree but it’s yours.”
These kids live in neighborhoods surrounded by fences, not trees, and so they’ve honed their climbing skills on chain-link. Tree climbing is an exotic activity, something they’ve read about in books or seen in movies. The tree is an ongoing presence in Bucklin – the play leaders have decorated it, hung art from its branches, turned the area underneath into forts and makeshift shelters. And in the process they’ve turned biophobia, fear of nature, into biophilia, love of nature. Summer is a time for adventuring in the wild and we’re creating our own wild places in Providence Parks one tree at a time.
The PlayCorps team arrives at 10 am laden with recycled objects (gigantic appliance boxes, tape, tinsel, industrial-sized spools, 20 pounds of donated sheets from a local hotel) and claims their corner of Harriet and Sayles Park. The adjacent water park is still shuttered, scheduled to open for the summer at noon, and the park is deserted. They unfold their boxes in the early morning heat, attach a few together with tape, the mere suggestion of a fort. We call this seeding – creating the framework for future play, a foundation for the imagination to build upon. They they draw some pictures on the pavement with chalk, leaving other pieces scattered about for future users. A few feet away some other team members begin to weave materials through the fence, turning the chain-link into an impromptu sculpture. By the time I arrive just a few hours later, the water park is packed and the PlayCorps corner of Harriet and Sayles has been turned into an elegant dinner party. “Put your name on the guest list,” a little boy tells me imperiously, gesturing towards a piece of cardboard with names scratched in multi-colored chalk. He is small, dark-skinned, wiry, not a day over 7, and deeply invested in proper birthday party protocol. He waits impatiently by his two tables (constructed out of foot long spools and hotel sheets) for the imaginary party to begin.
Harriet and Sayles Park is located in one of Providence’s low income neighborhoods and is one of approximately 36 sites in Providence where the city distributes free lunch daily throughout the summer. But attendance has been low for the past few years despite the high participation in the free lunch program in Providence schools. This summer The Partnership for Providence Parks, the Providence Children’s Museum, the City of Providence’s Department of Parks and Recreation and the Healthy Communities Office have collaborated to create PlayCorps, a pilot program where trained play facilitators activate Providence parks, introducing neighborhood kids to exploratory, imaginative play. The hope is that these PlayCorps teams will attract more kids into the parks, increasing the number who receive lunch. The goal is quite simple – to feed their bodies, their minds, and their imaginations simultaneously.
When I arrive at 12:30 the kids are already lined up, waiting impatiently for lunch, squirming on their sandy feet. Historically free summer lunch has been stigmatized in Providence, the bags themselves read as a mark of poverty, even though anyone 18 or under is eligible. And the kids often complained about the content of their lunches, griping about sandwiches and quickly abandoning their fruits and vegetables. But today they can’t wait to bring their paper sacks over to Jonah’s elegant tables and begin their party. And they eat everything, each piece of food magically transformed, running in and out of their cardboard box “elevator” between bites. This is exactly the type of symbiosis we were hoping for, a seamless link between bodies and minds, imaginations and meeting basic needs. We’ll be continuing our work every weekday until August 14th, building healthy communities throughout Providence one cardboard fort at a time.
Click below to see a video on our Facebook page of kids in Pastore Park Drumming with recycled parts on recycled parts! And while you’re there LIKE us!