What It’s Like to Be the Greenway’s Play Coordinator

Katherine Levesque makes fun for a living.

Photo by Paul Geffen on Flickr/Creative Commons

Rose Kennedy Greenway photo by Paul Geffen on Flickr/Creative Commons

If Katherine Levesque feels like bringing huge bubble wands to the workplace, she will.

When she gets there, she might build with some giant spongy blocks. And once in a while, she’ll hop on a carousel. If Levesque’s job sounds like all fun and games, that’s because it kind of is. She’s the Play Coordinator at the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

“When you tell someone, ‘Oh, I’ve been hired as a Play Coordinator,’ they’re wondering how many plays you’ve directed that year and if it’s Shakespeare,” says Levesque. “But that’s not what I do.”

Instead, Levesque is in charge of creating play-focused programming for the Greenway, a more than mile-long stretch of parks in downtown Boston. To put that more playfully, she ensures visitors are having a lot of fun. By building off of the Greenway’s already playful features—the fountains, the carousel, the public art, and the newly installed PlayCubes—Levesque creates free and fun events for both new and returning visitors alike.

While fun is a huge component of the programming, Levesque explains the play experiences she creates are related to what the Greenway is all about.

“My job is really about figuring out how to leverage all of our themes and playful elements in the park, but also about many things you might not think are playful, like our horticulture program, and making them playful and accessible to our visitors,” she says.

PlayCubes in Chinatown / Photo by Madeline Bilis

PlayCubes in Chinatown / Photo by Madeline Bilis

To support the Greenway’s horticultural elements, activities like seed sprouting and planting have been incorporated into events. Similarly, the Demonstration Gardens at Dewey Square Park provide an “educational playground” for sustainable, urban gardening practices.

This year marks the first season with a Play Coordinator in place at the Greenway. In the past, the Greenway was known to host events that other organizations brought to the space. The Play Coordinator position was created earlier this year so the park could implement Greenway-specific programming. Levesque was hired in March after working as a museum teacher at Historic New England and in other arts education roles.

It’s a really crazy job. I don’t think six months ago I would have known how one becomes a play coordinator,” says Levesque, whose job description specifically outlines time for play. She explains she’s required to be out in the park four out of five days of the week.

“Often times I’m out there on the fifth day either organizing materials or checking out site locations,” she says enthusiastically. “I wear a lot of sunscreen.”

Levesque says the most challenging part of play is its philosophy.

“Play is something that I think gets put at the bottom of to-do lists—like I have to go to the store, I have to cook dinner, and I have to help my kids do their homework, so I don’t have time for play,” says Levesque. “One of my challenges is making the case for it, but also making the play program as exciting as it can be so people put it at the top of their list.”

Levesque has many more bunches of fun on deck for the rest of the summer, including Boys & Girls Club Youth Adventure Days and a question and answer session with the designer of the Greenway carousel. There’s also a Chinatown boat racing session in the works for one of the park’s many fountains.

The Greenway only employs one Play Coordinator, but there’s a volunteer program in place for Play Ambassadors. Play Ambassadors aid in the park’s play-based education programs, acting as friendly and fun on-site support during events and other activities.

Levesque will start recruiting more Play Ambassadors as autumn approaches, but until then, she’ll be working to create a fun-filled first season as Play Coordinator.

“Play is a way for people to experiment with ideas in kind of a non-stressful situation,” she says. “One of the great things (about the job) is getting to learn about what the world is doing in terms of play.”

Photo by Lorianne DiSabato on Flickr/Creative Commons

The Greenway carousel / Photo by Lorianne DiSabato on Flickr/Creative Commons