Project Description: The Children Belong to the City Playground project builds on existing efforts to connect children at the Burlington Children’s Space and local outdoor spaces including the Intervale gardens and walking paths, local community garden sites, public parks and green spaces, and the city’s waterfront. The focus of this project is the development of a new playground for The Burlington Children’s Space incorporating elements from public spaces around the city that promote open ended play, physical challenges, and interest in the natural world throughout the seasons. Children, teachers, and parents will be involved in various outings to observe, play, and collect ideas. The process provides many opportunities for children, teachers and parents to share healthy activities such as neighborhood walks, visits to parks and gardens, and open ended outdoor play.
Identified Need : Ten years ago, with the help of the City and many community partners BCS relocated to the Old North End (O.N.E.) community to assist this community with childcare needs and issues. Our mission and vision statements reflect our philosophy that BCS should mirror the community around us, while supporting young children and families with high quality childcare and early education. The O.N.E. community, more than any other community in the Greater Burlington area, has the highest percentages of minorities, immigrants and refugees, women and children living in poverty and at-risk youth.
Research has shown that families experiencing this kind of poverty, or those living in neighborhoods with high incidences of poverty and crime, are at greater risk of becoming obese. The Food Research and Action Center identifies a number of factors linking poverty and obesity including the following:
• Low-income neighborhoods frequently lack full-service grocery stores and farmers’ markets where residents can buy fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
• There are few opportunities for physical activity in neighborhoods and schools.
• Low-income neighborhoods often have few safe or attractive places to play or be physically active. Open space –good parks, sidewalks, and fields – is at a minimum, and recreational facilities often are inadequate.
• High rates of crime or fear of crime make parents reluctant to permit children to play and be physically active outdoors.
Research has also shown that children today need adults to model the kind of healthy behaviors they would like to see them develop. The Vermont Department of Health’s Healthy Vermont’s WIC guidelines encourage parents to model healthy habits by playing with their children in outdoor spaces, preparing to be outside in all kinds of weather, and exploring new spaces in the community together. They remind parents, “Your child needs your help to learn the physical skills he will use throughout his life.”
Recent studies have focused on the kind of activities that yield positive, healthful results. Burdette and Whitaker ( 2005) argue that the current emphasis on increasing exercise and physical activity in youth is less important (in dealing with overweight and obesity in youth) than encouraging today’s youth to play more. These researchers continue that unstructured outdoor play has the potential to improve all aspects of children’s well being, including emotional, social, cognitive and physical.
The children at BCS need a more engaging playground , designed to be used in all seasons, which reflects their interests. They also need opportunities to see teachers and parents modeling physical activity, outdoor play, and healthy eating. Many of their parents also need ideas about how to get the most out of the local parks, gardens and green spaces that exist in our community. Everyone involved needs to feel that they are active participants in the development of their school with valuable ideas.