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  • Paula Jordan

Nature Play at the Growing Center ~ End of Summer 2019

A rabbit hiding among plants

After the center officially re-opened in late June, we were once again able to host our two ongoing free weekly playgroups (still ongoing this fall on Tuesdays at 3:30 pm and Friday at 9:30 am) and host the Allen Street Head Start Preschool on Friday afternoons. I saw so much fun and happiness; bare feet in the sand, hiding in the “bee area”, reading books under the yew trees, blowing bubbles, climbing trees, playing with loose parts (pieces of wood, rocks, bricks, and sticks), playing with water, and watching out for the resident bunny. Families from the preschool came to pick up their children at the Center on these Fridays; one dad and his son, while sitting on the stone steps near the herb garden, laughed, talked, and looked at the carefully picked herbs in his son’s pocket. Another dad asked where the evaporator was, as he was the Somerville High School student long ago who welded it together. He also offered us tomato plants from his home garden. One boy stayed in the tree he climbed until his aunt arrived, he wanted to show her what a good climber he was. A teacher shared with me that in this green space, during these afternoons, children who had been experiencing trauma in their families, who had been negotiating difficult feelings all week in the classroom were now relaxed, at play, with no teacher needed intervention. These kind of moments are healing to both teacher and child. Teachers and children harvested basil, herbs, lemon cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes. But these children are not the only ones that I saw interact and benefit from this quarter-acre city green space. The very day we opened, I observed a group of three older kids walking on the ‘edges’ of the plant beds. My granddaughter and another young child happily walked across the stone walls, arms out to the side for balance. I saw kids negotiating and jumping from one of the gabion walls to the path and onto the stone pathways. Two families arrived early one Saturday morning because they heard from a child at the farmers market that the Growing Center had “the best climbing tree”. During the summer I came to check on the lawn (yes, many of you know we have had a summer of lawn challenges) and in one shady patch, three boys, around 10 years old, who attended the Somerville Arts Council-sponsored Art in the Garden program, were just lying there, talking and resting in the shade, eyes up to the sky. A connection to place growing, play as strength and resilience builder, nature to soothe and heal, a tree to love. All this is happening at the Center on any given day.

A child playing at the Growing Center

Paula Jordan Children in Nature Coordinator

Stay tuned for more information about our Somerville Health Foundation grant and our Nature Garden Playschool at the Somerville Community Growing Center starting this fall. Want to support this effort and the other things we do here? Please consider donating to our first ever Cultivate Campaign, For more information about our weekly playgroups, contact Betsy at

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