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Planning to Play

October 19, 2009

Last Thursday and Friday, while Saint Paul’s teachers were getting schooled at their annual statewide convention, young people gathered at Baker Community Center on the West Side of the city for All Around the Neighborhood, a Neighborhood Learning Community program supported by the Center for Democracy and Citizenship.

All Around the Neighborhood day camps are designed around the idea of people from the West Side community teaching children about the community in the community. AATN camps are offered for children in grades K-6 on school-release days and during the summer.

The kids at last week’s AATN camps got into the act of planning for next year’s redesign of the playground at Baker Community Center.

On day one, Kathleen Anglo, a landscape architect from the city’s Parks Department, visited to brainstorm with the kids about what kinds of equipment they’d like to see and to talk about the process of landscape design. Then the kids got busy building their own fantasy playgrounds. They created slides, rope ladders, monkey bars, swimming pools, climbing structures, and a few non-traditional kinds of play equipment, like catapults and spring-loaded sandboxes.

On day two, the kids had more visitors: Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Kari Denissen, from the mayor’s education policy team. The young people proudly showed off their colorful constructions and the mayor listened eagerly to their ideas.

The kids spent two days thinking creatively about how they wanted their community to look and shared their ideas with people who are in a position to realize them. Not a bad way to spend a couple of days off from school.

Written by Jamie Pierson, an AmeriCorps/VISTA volunteer with the Center for Democracy and Citizenship.

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