Thursday, June 5, 2014

Park Pen-Pals

A friend of mine is the creator of the SF Postcard Project, now the Neighborhood Postcard Project. The project encourages individuals from lesser known and marginalized neighborhoods to share their favorite parts of their neighborhood or what changes they would like to see. These are written on a postcard and sent throughout the city to spread awareness, and illuminate the beauty that exists in these neighborhoods. For the children, I thought about what would be a local and representative adaptation of this project. Alamo Square Park came to mind for it's diverse visitors and the familiarity the children have with it. What else could we learn? Who are the people that spend time in this park?

We crafted messages to post in the park, inquiring about individuals spending time there. We ended our message prompting them to send us an email that answered our questions.

Our messages read: 
Hello! We are a small school of first graders in San Francisco, and we are curious about who is around us! If you find this, send us a short message to tell us who you are!

Where did you find this note?
Where are you from?
Are you visiting?
Living here?
What do you like to do?
What do you love about San Francisco?

We then took the the park and began scoping out ideal places to leave our notes. Simotaneouly talking about what kind of people might respond and if we thought anyone would respond at all. 

The children place the first message in a popular bus stop at the edge of the park. 

A closer look. The children brainstormed and decided that an illustration accompanying the message would draw people in and make it more likely that they would want to participate. 

Puppy makes an appearance! The children thought about places that people spend time in the park and where they would most likely come across our messages. The placement of these messages included a picnic table, a park bench, the entrance to the playground, a garbage can, and the garden fountain (above). A child mentioned the environmental impact that leaving paper in public might create, and we decided that we would go back in a few days and remove the papers to make sure they did not become litter. 

Two of the children look on to see if the people sitting on the bench have found the message we left there. They decide that once they have left, we should come back and move the sign to the top of the bench so people don't sit on it. 

We received many wonderful messages, that the participants have kindly agreed to let us post here. The children gathered in circle time to read the responses and share their thoughts about what our next step should be. Some of the children's favorites are below. 

1. We are Victoria and Kadar and we found your message by the painted Ladies in Alamo square. I (Victoria) am from St Albans (very near London) and Kadar is from Paris. I live here and Kadar is visiting. I volunteer while I await my visa and Kadar works in PR for Levis. I like to hike, watch and play football (soccer), brew beer and listen to music. Kadar likes to play soccer, spend time with his son and take photos. I love the architecture, food and feeling of this city. Kadar loves the architecture, embarcadero and the weather!

2. I found your note today in Alamo Square. I live in the neighborhood, and was visiting the park with my friend because the day was so beautiful and we wanted to be outside. I like to do yoga.  Sometimes I like to do headstands!  I took a picture to show you.  I'm not always good at them, and I fall over a lot, but it's fun so I keep trying. I love that San Francisco has so many hills.  It means that there's always a great view at the top, and it makes my body strong by walking up so many hills. If you ever want to learn more about yoga or meditation, I'd be happy to share.

3. My name is Griffin and I'm a first grader at Clarendon.  I live near this park, and I came here with my little brother, Rocket.

4. Hello, I'm Sara, I'm 3 and a half and I come from Ancona, on the east coast of Italy, in the centre.I saw your note at the entrance of Alamo Square playground. I live in Ancona, but I came to San Francisco with my parents to visit my uncle (mummy's brother) and auntie, who live here and work for Twitter. I love this city, it's full of fun things and there are lots of playgrounds, which I enjoyed very much! I love traveling, seeing new parts of the world. I love eating spaghetti and pizza. I love going on the swing, cycling and swimming. While in San Francisco I had so much fun at the Academy of Science which I thought was AMAZING. I enjoyed a ride on the cable car and visiting its museum. I absolutely adore the Golden Gate park, where we spent 2 whole days just cycling and walking around. I had lots of fun going up and down the piano steps at the fisherman's wharf and saying hello to the sea lions. Alcatraz was a bit scary, but I loved the boat ride. I think you live in a fantastic and vibrant city and you are very lucky! I wish I could come and visit your school, but we are going back to Italy tomorrow, so maybe I'll see you on that part of the world in the future.

After reading the notes, two of the children decided to write to the woman that offered to come and teach us yoga. We eagerly await a reply!

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