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New Northfield Playground Expands Access to Early Childhood Recreation

October 21, 2020

Young kids visiting the new Northfield Community Education Center are celebrating today because they have a great new place to play. For months, representatives from Northfield Public Schools, Northfield Promise, StriveTogether, and KABOOM! (the nonprofit organization focused on ending playspace inequity) have worked together to increase access to playspaces for local kids with the creation of a new, kid-designed playground that was installed in September.

Northfield was one of only three cities in the country selected for this playground grant. The early childhood playground gives young kids an incredible place to play close to where they live and learn, an opportunity that is often hard to achieve.

The new Northfield playground is located at the Northfield Community Education Center, which opened this fall on the city’s north side. Converted from the old Greenvale Park Elementary School, the Center is home to the Northfield Public Schools’ early childhood programs, preschool, and early childhood childcare, as well as Adult Basic Education and English as a Second Language programs. Located near many of Northfield’s low-income housing areas, the playground is designed for children ages 0-5 and is open to the public.

Here’s what early users of the playground think of it:

  • “I like all the swings and the big top on the playground.” Addison (age 4)
  • “I love that it has letters on it! I am excited to play on the slides!” Ferris (age 4)
  • “I love the climber with the animals on it!” Caitlin (age 4)
  • “The monkey bars are the best!” Sam (age 4)
  • “I am excited to have a space that is fun, encourages multiple motor movements, and is safe for all children to enjoy!” Trish, Northfield Public Schools Early Ventures Teacher

In June, kids from the community participated in a virtual Design Day, where they generated ideas for creating their dream playground. The new playground—designed with inspiration from their drawings—will provide hundreds of kids and their families in Northfield with an incredible playspace that can spark hope and enable kids to reach their full potential.

“We are incredibly grateful to StriveTogether and KABOOM! for this amazing opportunity for our community,” said Zach Pruitt, director of the Healthy Community Initiative (HCI), which serves as the backbone organization for Northfield Promise. “The importance of kindergarten readiness is well-documented and providing enriching, fun places for young children to play is an important strategy for this.”

KABOOM! knows that playspaces are essential to resilience, health and childhood, and the communities who have been hit the hardest by COVID-19—communities facing challenges already, and communities of color—are the same communities who often lack access to parks and playspaces due to historic disinvestment. The partners have teamed up to help end playspace inequity, creating a new place for kids to play that reflects the neighborhood’s unique needs and aspirations, and gives every kid the opportunity to experience the joys of childhood.

“We know disasters and crises often exacerbate the inequities that communities are already experiencing, and in many communities, kids won’t have a playground to go back to once the COVID-19 crisis is over,” said James Siegal, CEO of KABOOM!. “We must stop the playspace inequities from becoming even deeper after we get through this pandemic, giving every kid the chance to play and just enjoy being a kid.”

With StriveTogether (a national network of 70 community partnerships that works to improve outcomes from cradle to career), KABOOM! and local communities are building three large-scale playgrounds designed by the community to meet the specific dreams and needs of their kids. Each custom playspace is conceived of and designed by local kids, educators, and communities, building ownership over their new playspace and seamlessly weaving in components that support local goals, including expanding Kindergarten-readiness efforts, increasing literacy-rich spaces, encouraging child-caregiver interactions and providing adolescent and community gathering spaces. Through its partnership with StriveTogether, KABOOM! is committed to ending playspace inequity for kids, for communities, for good.

To ensure that playgrounds are able to open safely in every community, KABOOM! has issued important playground guidance that all communities, playground owner/operators and caregivers can follow. The guidance can be viewed or downloaded at kaboom.org/reopen.

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