Sunday afternoon, April 29th, the Cathedral Sparks kicked off Jane’s Walks 2012. The group of 5 and 6-year-old girl guides, lead by Sparks leader Karen Meagher, spent time reflecting on their favourite things in their neighbourhood. The walk began with a recording of conversations between the Sparks and Karen while they were drawing images from their neighbourhood. The group, about 35 people, then went walking through Cathedral, down 13th Avenue and ending up along the dike at the southern end of the neighbourhood.
It was really interesting to hear the Spark’s perspective. It is probably no surprise to people who spend a good deal of time around children but these girls had a very personal understanding of the spaces they use and inhabit. So, for example, coming into view of Connaught School some of the girls started to sing-chant “our school, our school.” Or, at another moment near Connaught library one girl shared that her grandmother’s home was nearby when asked about the area.
The recorded conversations and map often showed that the specific attributes of a place were what mattered: so that there were good swing sets or cup cakes. One girl even cited Candy Cane Park near the Science Centre as one of her favourite places. In her case, the idea of the enjoyable elements of neighbourhood or community came more experiential than spatial.
Places like Cathedral Safeway were described as boring, because the experience of grocery shopping was not particularly fun. At the same time, Dessart’s ice cream and candy shop was far and away one of the most important places because, I suppose, they have ice cream and candy. There were some strange choices like the popularity of Pacific Fresh Fish (fish store) while Connaught Library was not mentioned.
The group stopped at Connaught Library and spoke both about the library and the School across the street. When asked about the library, many of the girls were excited to say they went there, but none had thought to mention it during their pre-walk activities.
The walk continued on to Holy Rosary playground and field where there was a play break. The use and pattern of time became important things to reflect on. With Connaught, Holy Rosary and Davin play grounds, and the tremendously named (unofficially) the Bowl, Pirate and Spider Parks; there is a network of play spaces that provides a variety of attributes. These places have a mix of clear sight lines while maintaining strong boundaries; for instance low chain link fences at the schools and the dike on the West side of Pirate Park. There location helped to split up the walk into smaller sections.
From Holy Rosary we made our way south down Garnet Street to Pirate Park where the group had another play period, (with cookies and drinks!) before ending the walk.
The Sparks walk was great at illustrating the importance of parks, plays space and also demonstrating the pace of young children’s lives. Having amenities like parks, eateries, shops and community centres, within 10-20 minute walking intervals seems like a good measure for how stimulating a neighbourhood should be for young children.
Great job Cathedral Sparks!