Jardincito Nature Play Garden

Contact Information: Reach out to a garden leader at jardincito@neighbor-space.org
Address: 2300 S Whipple St
Neighborhood/Community Area: South Lawndale
Garden Established: 2011
Protected by NeighborSpace: 2013
Social Media/Website:
Facebook: @JardincitoPlayGarden
Community Partners: Jardincito Advisory Council, Catholic CharitiesOur Lady of Tepeyac Head Start Center, and John Spry Community Links High School.

About the garden: (From Jardincito on Facebook)
Children and families are losing access to nature, both physically and ideologically.
We recognize an important requirement of healthy communities is consistent access to natural spaces and experiences. By providing children and their caregivers with spaces designed to support and nurture child-initiated, self-directed nature play, we help build a foundation of resilience, a sense of wonder, and future stewards of the earth.

Why: Little Village Chicago, the neighborhood & home of Jardincito, community area with the least quantity of open space per capita. The community has pushed for years for this empty lot, vacant for the past 30 years, to become an outdoor green space for play and community connection. Little Village has a growing population of young Latino families in the area. Yet there is a lack of recreational parks and sites in our neighborhood that gear towards our early childhood demographics. The only play lot available is a small lot in front of John Spry Community school and that lot can hold no more than 20 children at a time. Many families are low to moderate income families and have limited resources to travel outside of the community. This play garden is the closest is their “nearby nature.”

Important Events: Led by neighborhood groups and education leaders from local public schools, the community, in 2013, was finally able to secure the vacant lot for long term community use. NeighborSpace, Chicago’s non-profit land trust for community gardens, in partnership with the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national, non-profit, land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy acquired the land so this important community story could continue. In 2013 and 2014, Trust for Public Land and NeighborSpace, alongside the community partners and voices, began the community planning process that would develop the play garden concept into a realized vision by 2015.

Community Partners/ Users: Jardincito Community Nature Play Garden is designed to serve multiple age ranges and constituencies, but is especially intended for
*Early childhood users as place to engage and wonder in the presence of nature.*Teens are also considered primary users, as research supports that teens especially gain agency and inspiration from engaging with other teens in stewarding natural spaces and ideas.*And finally, intergenerational families and community members are considered primary users for this space, as connecting with family and others in a public natural space is especially important for keeping urban residents healthy and resilient to daily stresses.

Community Site Managers: The following three community site managers represent the three main constituencies, and are considered to be the primary users of the garden. This includes Catholic Charities “Head Start” program housed locally at Our Lady of Tepeyac, Community Links High School housed at Spry Elementary School, and a dedicated group of community and neighborhood leaders.

Pioneering Partners: Recently, unique place-making partners are joining the team to help pilot this innovative model. The Student Conservation Association, a nationally known organization for providing urban youth with “back-country” experiences, will provide an innovative “front country team” crew inspired and fueled by the important progressive work that has occurred in Chicago landscape architecture for over 150 years. Illinois ASLA supports this project by lending expertise and education opportunities for the SCA urban corps.