Thanks to the Jamestown Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department, local playgrounds will offer children more than just the run-of-the-mill slide and swing set.
On Monday, the department announced the return of the Summer Playground Program, a six-week - free of charge - program that offers children between the ages of 5 and 13 with a variety of fun and educational activities.
The program, which begins June 30 and runs until Aug. 8, will be held at six locations this year: Allen Park, Fletcher Elementary School, Johnson Street Tot Lot, Lillian Dickson Tot Lot, Nordstrom Park and Ring Elementary School.
The sites will be open from 9 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m.
"All that parents or guardians have to do is bring their child to a site, sign them up with their information, and the children are free to come and go as much as they want over the course of six weeks," said Julia Ciesla-Hanley, city recreation coordinator.
In addition to citywide field trips, the program covers a host of activities including bowling, a talent show, a carnival and the Playground Olympics. At the individual parks, there will be daily arts and crafts, sports and playground equipment.
A new addition will be a Tree Day - courtesy of the Parks Department - that will include a tree planting and guided nature walk through Allen Park by Dan Stone, the city's arborist.
Educational activities, according to Ciesla-Hanley, have made the program an ideal option for parents. She thanked the Jamestown Public Schools, in particular, for lending materials that encourage "playing with a purpose" because they are designed to bolster Common Core standards in a fun way.
"It's fun like when a parent puts vegetables in your dessert and you don't know it's there," said Ciesla-Hanley, with a smile. "It's kind of the same odd concept. We want kids to come to the Playground Program and have a good time, but if we can help incorporate some learning along with it, in terms of some basic skills that they need to keep up over the summer time, it's going to help us a lot."
Mayor Sam Teresi also spoke favorably of the program, describing it as one of his favorites.
"It's a great program," he said. "First and foremost, it's about fun but anytime that we can introduce something that has educational value, we love to do that. This really is a good example of a public/private/not-for-profit partnership coming together to do something positive."
The Playground Program is made possible through support from the city of Jamestown, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, Jamestown Public Schools, New York State Office of Children and Family Services and the Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation.
The program's staff consists of a number of city college-aged residents, many of whom hope to pursue a career in education.