The summer meals program ensures children receive free, nutritious meals when school is out. However, kids who need summer meals haven’t always taken advantage of the program because there’s little else to do at some of the parks and meal sites. Thus emerged the big idea: what if we enliven these public spaces with playful activities so that kids want to spend time there throughout the summer? They’ll get the needed meals as well as opportunities for creative play and exploration!
From June 30 to August 14, teams of play facilitators will be stationed in five Providence parks to coordinate play-based activities on weekdays from 11 AM to 2 PM:
- Bucklin Park (West End)
- Father Lennon/Camden Street Park (Smith Hill)
- General Street Park (Wanskuck)
- Harriet and Sayles Park (South Side)
- Zuccolo/Pastore Park (Federal Hill)
In addition to collaborating on the design of the PlayCorps program, the Museum’s primary role is providing play-based training and advisory support. Over the last week, Museum director Janice O’Donnell trained participants on playwork techniques – supporting children’s play without directing it, types of play, observing kids and understanding their play cues, how to support risk taking in play, and more.
The team participated in a very successful Pop-Up Play Day at Roger Williams Park last weekend, and on Monday they’ll be dispatched to their parks to begin to connect with the community and kick off a summer of play. We’re delighted to have worked with thoughtful and committed partners to shape this pilot program and look forward to seeing what happens this summer. As Janice says, “The big goal is that kids come and use the parks without us – that play can go on if we create playful spaces that really work. That, to me, would be success beyond measure.”