New Playground Brings Fun to Both Children and Adults

Unique garden opens at St. Ann Center, connecting the generations through play.

St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care hosted the grand opening of its one-of-a-kind Intergenerational Play Garden on Thursday, Aug. 26, at the center’s Bucyrus Campus, 2450 W. North Ave.

The 11,660-square-foot playscape includes four whimsical structures—large enough to accommodate an adult and two children or multiple youngsters. There’s a fairy house, a teapot house, a castle and a dinosaur cave. A railed sidewalk connects the structures, and the play garden is wheelchair accessible.

Bordering the play garden are 27 cedar raised bed gardens, each measuring 4 x 8 feet. The gardens, built by St. Ann Center staff and volunteers, are accessed by wheelchair-friendly paths—making it easy for children and adults to plant, water, weed and harvest their bounty. The homegrown produce, including fruits, vegetables and herbs, will be used in St. Ann Center’s meal program.

Other features include a shady pergola area where kids and adults can read to one another. There are also balance beams, where the children can hone their major gross motor skills.

The grand opening celebration began with the untying of an African kente cloth bow. Remarks were made by Sr. Edna Lonergan, St. Ann Center president. Environmental educator Matt Flower of the Urban Ecology Center led an interactive presentation on nature. The public enjoyed guided tours of the play garden and raised beds.

“The Intergenerational Play Garden is not a place where adults sit on a bench and watch the children play,” said Lonergan, founder of St. Ann Center, an all-ages day care that serves infants, preschoolers, after-schoolers, summer camp kids, as well as older adults and people with disabilities. “Here, the generations will have adventures together, with opportunities for fun and learning.”

The Urban Ecology Center is partnering with St. Ann Center to design a curriculum of environmental and nature-based activities children and adults will enjoy together.

Initially, the play garden will be used by clients in St. Ann Center’s adult and child day care programs, with plans to open it to the public in the future. The $19,000 raised bed garden project was funded by the We Energies Foundation, Northwestern Mutual, the Greendale Women’s Club, and the Sisters of St. Francis Sacred Heart Charitable Fund.

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