The Village of Palmetto Bay conducted its second Kids Town Hall meeting recently at Southwood Middle School. The topic was: “How can village parks be used to promote the arts?”
Attending the after school meeting were Councilmember Karyn Cunningham; village manager Ed Silva; Parks and Recreation director Fanny Carmona; Vizcaya public programs manager Rebecca Peterson, who is on the village’s Art in Public Places Committee; school principal Raul Garcia, plus about a dozen teachers and an auditorium full of students.
After an introduction by Councilmember Cunningham, Silva gave a brief presentation on the village parks, including future plans and possible new parks. He also told the students that the new playground equipment requested by Coral Reef Elementary School students at the previous Kids Town Hall had been ordered and was on the way.
Mentioned as possibilities during the presentation were the return of Art in the Park at Coral Reef Park, new features at Palmetto Bay Park, a life-size chess set and a mangrove ecology display at Ludovici Park, a pier and gazebo at Thalata Estate Park, improvements at the dog park and a Veterans Park with an information kiosk to help youngsters learn about history.
“This is your opportunity; think outside the box and dream big,” Carmona told the students.
Student input covered a range of ideas from providing places for people to make art to having a piano to play. Some suggestions were sports related but many had to do with the arts, including having displays of residents’ artwork in the parks.
Reaction to the Kids Town Hall was very positive and the youngsters seemed to enjoy participating.
Eighth grade student Gisel Dominguez said, “It was really fun and it’s good that they got the students’ opinions on what to incorporate into the parks and how we can improve the arts.”
Sixth grade student Almudena Barroso-Gallego agreed.
“It was really important because I feel like the kids got a say on what could be happening in the parks that we’re very into, since we spend a lot of time there,” she said. “I’m a magnet art student here and I’d like to see a lot more painting and art in the parks.”
Eighth grade student Ivo Bernal also appreciated the opportunity.
“I think it’s very helpful to see the perspective, because you’re talking with adults but you also get to see how younger people think,” Bernal said. “An adult might say an opera show at the pavilion, but a youngster might say just perform a dance or draw or paint something.”
Magnet art teacher Jenifer Berse, one of the staff participants, thought the Kids Town Hall was especially appropriate at Southwood Middle School.
“I think it’s fantastic, especial for a school of the arts,” Berse said. “These kids have amazing ideas, their imaginations are running wild, so I think it’s the best place to come to get ideas.”
Councilmember Cunningham said she was pleased with the meeting and the response.
“This is the second year I have hosted a Kids Town Hall in the village,” Cunningham said. “Last year our children helped pick new playground equipment for Coral Reef Park. This year we had our middle schoolers share ideas on how we can incorporate art in our parks.
It is initiatives like this that help me as a policy maker to better understand the needs of community members of all ages.”