A strong body of research shows that outdoor play is essential to children's whole development and is important for mental and physical health. An equally strong body of research emphasizes the benefits of exposure to music for young children. A 2016 study at U.S.C. concluded, "Music ignites all areas of child development and skills for school readiness, including intellectual, social-emotional, motor, language, and overall literacy. It helps the body and the mind work together. Exposing children to music during early development helps them learn the sounds and meanings of words. Dancing to music helps children build motor skills while allowing them to practice self-expression. For children and adults, music helps strengthen memory skills."
Sadly, many children do not have ample opportunities to explore music and art, and school budgets for these activities are being cut. This project proposes to install interactive musical sculptures in a public park, increasing access for children in Brookings, SD to art, music, outdoor play and interaction with caregivers: all of which help build overall literacy and human flourishing.
The City of Brookings, SD has a dedicated Public Arts Fund--South Dakota's only "1% for the Arts" municipal program. The fund is overseen by a Public Arts Commission that has already pledged $10,000 towards this project, should this District 5610 Matching Grant Proposal be funded. The Brookings Rotary Club has pledged another $5,000 in their 2020-21 budget. With a matching District 5610 Grant, there would be $20,000 to purchase and install interactive, handicap-accessible musical sculptures from Harmony Park in Larson Park. A sign recognizing Rotary's involvement in the project would also be installed.
Rotarians will serve on a multidisciplinary team that will determine which of the Harmony Park musical sculptures will be installed in Larson Park. Other people on this taskforce could include Dusty Rodiek, (Brookings Park and Recreation Director), Kate Treiber (Director of Children's Museum of South Dakota) Nikki Eining (licensed play therapist), as well as a parent and child who would be most likely to use the equipment.
In 2020, the City of Brookings invested in a new handicap-accessible playground at Larson Park, redid the disc golf course, and has plans to renovate the landscaping and do some maintenance work on an existing public art sculpture that sits at the park's entry. The park also has a walking path and is a popular destination for families. The musical sculptures will be an additional improvement to the park, one that will help children build literacy skills while reaping the benefits of time spent outdoors and in creative interactions with caregivers.