August closes and park and recreation professionals everywhere implement new programs in preparation for fall. Parents prepare and then release their children back to school. City kids, kids from the ‘burbs and kids from rural communities carry their summers with them as they forge ahead. Some hold fast to memories of family vacations while others embrace the lessons they’ve learned and the friends they’ve made at their community park and recreation center. These kids are park and rec kids.
I first heard the phrase “park and rec kid” from my colleague at NRPA, Michele White. One day at work, as each of us described our own connection to this field, White declared she was a park and rec kid. Although most of us, as adults, had not looked at ourselves from this viewpoint, it was clear by the end of the discussion that each of us had earned this noble privilege in our own way.
This issue of Parks & Recreation Magazine addresses the making of park and rec kids by speaking to the lasting influence and importance that park and recreation agencies have within a community and the irrevocable impression a park and rec experience can have on a child.
Our cover story, “Youth Service in Parks” by Jessica Culverhouse, NRPA’s senior fundraising manager, addresses the volunteer requirements needed by many high school students for graduation. Culverhouse shows how volunteering through parks and recreation affords young people a variety of development opportunities, from creating a strong sense of responsibility toward their community to fostering relationships with adults who may serve as mentors. Often the connection formed through the volunteer work provides many positive results and cultivates new members and support for the agency that will last for years.
This month’s Conservation column by Allen Cooper and Robin Moore, “New National Guidelines for Nature Play Areas,” delves into the development of nature play spots for kids. These much-anticipated guidelines, titled Nature Play & Learning Places: Creating and Managing Places Where Children Engage with Nature, offer a platform of strategies on how park and recreation agencies and other contributors of play areas can confront the challenging tasks of planning, designing and managing quality natural play and learning areas.
Finally, a sneak peek of NRPA’s Congress 2014 highlights a sampling of the numerous education sessions promised this year in Charlotte, North Carolina, October 14–16. Aside from the innovative education sessions, Opening General Session keynote speakers Robert Garcia and Dr. Maya Rockeymoore are two of the most influential thought leaders addressing park and recreation issues today — and it should not surprise you, but both are confirmed park and rec kids.
Gina Mullins-Cohen is NRPA's Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Publishing and Editorial Director of Parks & Recreation Magazine.