Taking indoor programming to the park
It is proven by research that kids do not spend enough time in parks. The question is, how do we get young people off the couch and back into parks? We asked Shakeera Solomon from Vision of Hope Resource Centre in Brampton what they learned when they took monthly programming outside, into the park.
Shakeera Solomon from Vision of Hope Resource Centre in Brampton says:
“When I was a kid, everyone was in the park.”
It’s true. And it’s also true (as proven by research) that kids today don’t spend as much time in the park. The question is, how do we get young people off the couch and back into parks?
In 2019, Shakeera’s organization applied for and received a TD Park People Grant. The grant was for Vision of Hope’s Youth Council to take monthly programming outside, into the park.
Here’s what they learned along the way.
There’s a huge and often overlooked benefit to having youth programming in the park: It makes it easier to attract new youth participants.
Vision of Hope moved their monthly Youth Council meetings from the east Brampton Resource Centre to Anne Nash Park. This is a smaller, local park with a gazebo and modest play area. As an added bonus, the park is beside an elementary school. A smaller park might seem like an unlikely choice as a youth meeting spot, but it was a stroke of genius.
East Brampton is a developing community without a lot of resources for young people. So, local residents took notice when a bunch of kids started appearing on a regular basis. Sure, Vision of Hope has access to larger parks like Chinguacousy Park in central Brampton, but by heading to Anne Nash Park, the Youth Council caught the attention of kids from the elementary school and those passing by on their way home from school.
This visibility helped the Youth Council attract lots of new members who now regularly attend meetings and events. There is no better outreach than operating your program outdoors. It gives people a tangible sense of what your program is all about, and can entice them to get involved.
Consider: If you were to think of outdoor programming as outreach, what programs might you take to the park?
Hosting a gathering in a smaller park not only helped attract more youth to programs, but it also helped get parents more connected to one another.
Shakeera explains that when youth-focused programs happened indoors, parents would wait on the sidelines and kill time on their own. When programming moved into the park, parents interacted in a whole new way.
In the small park, it became awkward for parents not to talk to one another. When parents connect, there are many benefits, particularly in an underserved community. Parents who know one another are much more likely to support each other and build resilience in times of need.
Consider: Other than your target audience, who else would benefit if you gathered in a park?
Shakeera shares that Brampton has many small parks that are similar in size to Anne Nash Park. Programming in the park helped the youth see the parks as theirs. Have you ever tried to get a young person to pick up their socks off the floor? Well, imagine Shakeera’s surprise when her group pressed her to host a park clean up.
That was when she knew the park had truly become“their place.” Shakeera took note when the group posed for a team photo with gloves and garbage bags: “They were all so proud of what they were able to do for their park.”
Consider: What activities could you do to deepen people's sense of ownership of the park?
Thank you to the McLean Foundation for their support in funding this resource.