Penang Municipal Park and Miss Peregrine
One of the places that we explored this week was Penang Municipal Park (sometimes referred to as the Youth Park). It is one impressive park.
When we were there, Artie said that it reminded him of Queen Victoria Park in Niagara Falls. I can see why. There is incredible attention to detail with the plantings, aesthetics and flow of the park, much like Niagara Parks is famous for.
But… this isn’t just a park for strolling in on a Sunday afternoon and looking at beautiful things. It is a park for being active in. I don’t pretend to understand why, but something about this park makes you WANT to be active. That is no small accomplishment.
The park has a large playground area, with plenty of shade and benches. Yes, some of the equipment looks to be (deliciously) dangerous by North American standards… and all of that shade means that someone, someday if they are standing in just the right place might get hit on the head by a falling tree branch… I think this is how playgrounds should be. And, while many of the pieces of equipment do specify that they are for children 12 and under, throughout the playground there are pieces of exercise and massage equipment for adults as well. So, parents, grandparents etc. CAN be active and play while children are playing.
There are also specific “exercise” spaces within the park, complete with equipment and instructions. Again, these are integrated into the surroundings. So, while you are exercising – essentially your entire view is one of beauty.
There are pools here as well. We’ve noticed that most pools here in Penang are quite shallow. The deepest pool at the condo we are staying at is about 4 feet deep, and the deepest pool at the park was about that deep as well. We aren’t sure the reason for this.
Numerous fountains are integrated into the design of the pools, which serve a functional (cooling) purpose as well as contributing to the aesthetics.
So, if a park JUST had these things – it would be a pretty amazing park… but there is so much more to this park. It also has:
- A skate park
- An archery range
- Many, many walking, hiking, cycling paths
- A walking/running track
- Theater-like spots for performance
- Beautiful little alcoves perfect for reflection and meditation
- A whole wheelchair accessible playground… designed so that kids can move around within their wheelchairs and play
Yes, I am in love with this park. Because park and facility design (at schools and other institutions and in municipalities) in Ontario seems to be driven primarily by limiting liability, I’m not sure that we would ever see a park this amazing in Ontario. I remember feeling angry each time I heard that the reason “why” something couldn’t be done in Ontario was because it was either “too dangerous” or left an organization open to “too much liability”. Having experienced a few amazing parks here in Asia over the past month or so… I’m no longer angered by this… but sad… Really sad for what the kids in Ontario (and much of North America) are missing out on. I worry about kids who are encouraged to “stay safe” at all costs… I worry about nations where parents are (and with good reason…) more afraid of a call from Family and Child Services than they are about raising children who are able to make it as adults – and make a difference in the world….
On a final (very related) note…
We went to see the movie “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” the other night at the theater. I don’t want to spoil the film for you – because it is one that is worth seeing. But, there is a line near the end of the movie that turned me into a messy puddle of mush:
We don’t need you to make us feel safe. You made us feel brave and that is even better.
That line resonated with me down to atom level in every cell of my body… and it spoke to really what I believe my role is as a parent, educator and whatever other role I find myself in within the vast, interconnected net that is raising the next generation. My job is not to make my children feel safe… but to help them know what it is to feel brave. Safety is quite arguably an illusion… if not a delusion… but one that we seem pretty intent on protecting and maintaining… We are designing for safety – not for developing courage and bravery… and at what cost?
On this adventure, all four of us are having to choose between “safe and brave” every day, and it is causing all of us to grow. I see the growth in my children. It isn’t showing up in a brash, bold and arrogant way… I think that is what we see when we want to protect the “illusion of safety”. What I am seeing is a graceful, mature confidence develop in them. They talk to strangers. They figure out the next step in solving problems that are in front of them. They accept differences… as well… differences… not as threats. They are willing to try new and different things – and ask to do new things. They are more willing to explore. As a parent, I’m grateful each and every time that I see these things in my kids.
About the Author
Professionally, I am an e-learning instructional designer who breaks down the barriers of space and time in learning. Personally, I'm the Mom in the Little-Green Family, and co-planner in our adventures.