Park and Recreation Month is upon us, and we’re as excited as ever! A month dedicated to celebrating the field that you put your heart and soul into day in and day out. This July, we’re celebrating A Lifetime of Discovery, and we want to explore all the amazing programs and services your local park and recreation centers offer.
Since 1985, America has observed July as the nation’s official Park and Recreation Month. While we celebrate all the fun and exciting programs that are offered, we also celebrate the critical role that parks and recreation plays in the communities it serves every single day. Sometimes, some of the offerings and efforts aren’t recognized — due, in part, to the fact that they are “undiscovered” by members of the community. This July, we want to make sure that changes.
For the most part, when people think of parks and recreation, they envision playgrounds, swimming pools, sports leagues and summer camps, but parks and recreation is so much more. Park and recreation centers are our home base, our refuge, our places to gather with friends and family. Park and recreation centers are feeding our kids, keeping our parents and grandparents healthy and active, and doing remarkable things to help the environment. Today, parks and recreation offers more than it ever has — and more than you may realize. That’s why this year, we want to highlight the sometimes “undiscovered” roles of local park and recreation centers.
The joy of discovering something new in one’s own backyard — that also has lifelong benefits — is priceless, and Park and Recreation Month is the perfect opportunity to showcase everything your agency has to offer your community.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)
Does your agency offer STEM programming to your community? STEM has been getting lots of attention lately, and it’s not hard to see why. Nearly 33 percent of park and rec agencies across the country are offering STEM programs, and that number is continuing to grow. STEM programming empowers youth and teaches them valuable skills they can put toward a future career.
STEM teaches problem-solving, improves creativity, initiates curiosity and promotes critical thinking — all of which are vital tools for our next generation. If your agency is providing STEM education in your afterschool programs, encourage your community to come see the benefits for themselves! (Tip: You can show off your STEM programs by inviting your community to the Park and Recreation Month Open House Day on July 21!)
Innovative Health and Wellness Opportunities
Has your agency implemented creative ways to foster a healthy environment for members of your community? Perhaps you offer healthy meals to kids in out-of-school time programs, healthy cooking classes or unique programs to help older adults stay healthy and active. These are all great opportunities for your community. Make sure they’re aware of these offerings so they can take full advantage of them!
When it comes to getting kids active — and making sure they stay active — one of the best ways to engage them is to make the activities fun. Kids are more likely to participate and enjoy the activities if they are having a great time. (Tip: Implement the Park and Recreation Month Summer Camp Dance into your summer camp programming! You can find the training video at www.nrpa.org/events/july/summer-camp-dance/.)
Does your agency have green stormwater infrastructure in or around your facilities? Things like bioswales, permeable parking lots and rain gardens are all efficient ways not only to reduce flooding and improve water quality, but also to provide an opportunity to educate your community about the conservation efforts your agency has undertaken and to show how those efforts impact them.
You may have even done something as simple as plant a pollinator garden. Pollinator species have declined in numbers, become endangered or even gone extinct due to the loss of natural food supplies and habitat. A pollinator garden can help tremendously in the fight to save these species, and you can share the importance of pollinators with your community in the hopes that they may plant their own gardens! (Tip: Take a photo or video of your conservation efforts and share it on social media using the hashtag #NRPADiscoveryChallenge to enter our weekly photo contest!)
Many of your community members may not be aware that some of their favorite events are either hosted or sponsored by their local park and recreation agency. Concerts, festivals and so many other family- friendly events take place in local parks or at recreation centers. Park and Recreation Month is a great time to highlight the special events going on throughout the year. (Tip: Be sure to promote these events on your webpage or social media sites.)
Now It’s Time to Celebrate!
Now that you’ve thought about some of the things you want to highlight to your community during Park and Recreation Month, there’s only one thing left to do — celebrate! If you haven’t already taken advantage of the materials and resources we provide to ensure you have everything you need to celebrate Park and Recreation Month. Be sure to keep us posted on everything you’re doing throughout the month by using the hashtag #DiscoverJuly on social media.
Let’s make this the best Park and Recreation Month yet, and let the world know that all the great work you do really does uncover A Lifetime of Discovery!
Cort Jones is NRPA’s Communications Manager.