The Puppet Wagon is a free program that promotes health and wellness by providing an active way to engage the imaginations of children, from toddlers to elementary school students. Shows are performed throughout the week during the summer and are held in Eagan’s Parks. By hosting the program in a park, the city offers a chance for all residents to participate and play, no matter what age, race, income, or physical ability. In 2014, over 4,000 children attended. Each week has a theme, that ranges from health to science. The “ask a puppet” time and other opportunities encourages audience participation.
With degrees in history and political science, Mayor Dave Kleis has made his career educating people on the legacy of the land, while leading residents into a thriving future. For over ten years, Mayor Kleis has been hosting a 90-minute historic trolley tour of the city. Starting at City Hall, the tour winds through St. Cloud’s neighborhoods highlighting the early settlements, people, places, and history. Each tour is different, moving from the St. Cloud’s prison, to the quarries, trails, the historic Pantown neighborhood and downtown. “It’s important to learn, recall, and understand the history of a place,” says the Mayor. The mobile tour brings the past to the present in an engaging way for all.
Located below the Teen Center, the Youth Bicycle Program propels students to get fit and explore the community around them–see the health benefits of cycling. A well-equipped repair shop allows youth to learn and practice bike repair skills, ranging from fixing a flat tire to building a wheel. Weekly bike rides take cyclists to Dairy Queens, surrounding communities, and into Wisconsin. The youth cyclists and mechanics report pride in what they accomplished, becoming stronger and safer cyclists, achieving more than they expected to, and gaining skills they can use later in life. In 2017, 36 youth participated in the program, collectively riding 4,394 miles, roughly the distance from Landfall, MN to Paris, France.
Lead poisoning, which can cause serious health problems and developmental delays, is 100% preventable and the Sustainable Resources Center hopes to spread that message by offering outreach and health education. The Leadie Eddie van is a mobile lead testing unit and puppet show that travels to neighborhood events offering educational materials about the dangers of lead and strategies that families can take to protect themselves in English, Spanish, and Somali. “We have community partners who go to events, who speak multiple languages, who are [able] to engage people in the communities,” says Patricia Fitzgerald from Hennepin County Community Works. Families also have an opportunity to learn about free in-home visits and about grant funds that could help remove lead hazards from their homes. By reaching where people already gather, this effort makes homes healthy places to live.
Rec on the Go is a mobile recreational activities program that offers crafts, games, literacy projects, science experiences, and snacks for children and teens in low-income areas of Brooklyn Park. The summer programming schedule typically runs four days a week from mid-June to mid-August in many locations across the city, from parks to apartment complexes. The program was created to increase access to parks and recreational facilities. A national study found that children living closer to recreational programs and parks had much lower rates of obesity than children who lived further away. However, the study also found that low-income neighborhoods and communities of color have fewer parks and recreational facilities than more affluent, white neighborhoods (Wen, Zhang, Harris, Holt, & Croft, 2013). Rec on the Go bridges this divide, providing opportunities for youth to learn and engage.