We released our new student research, Voices: A Study of Youth in Peel, October 10th at our 2013 AGM. The research has largely informed our Recreation and After School Strategy (RASS), Peel’s Kids Participate, which we introduced earlier this year. Peel’s young people are telling us loud and clear that finding out about recreational programs and activities, and the registration processes currently in place, are barriers for them to participating. In fact, streamlining registration is the first recommendation in the RASS report. So, we’ve partnered with Microsoft Canada to do something about that! Read all about Play in Peel, a new recreation app for our region, in this guest post by Corinne Ho. Corinne, a writer for WebNotWar.ca, talks about how we are collaborating for a brighter future. Read on to find out how you can start using the Play In Peel app.* 

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Collaborating for a brighter future

Since 2004, the Peel Children and Youth Initiative (PCYI) has made it their mission to provide every child, youth, and young adult with the available resources to thrive and reach their full potential.

Between after-class and dinnertime, there’s an opportunity for children and youth to really engage in their community, particularly through quality after-school programs. The challenge, however, is not so much whether these recreation and activities are available rather its degree of accessibility to the younger population. Until now, searching for recreational activities in a community typically finds venue locations, but does not include information such as time of day, registration costs, and additional details about the activities themselves.

With the Internet being such a prominent function on a majority of computers, tablets, and smartphones, a web app seemed like the perfect approach in providing that accessibility to the youth community. PCYI partnered with Microsoft to help make recreation and activities easy and convenient to search. In close collaboration with Web Nodes, a software development company, a web app was created to provide such service. Built using Open Source technologies such as jQuery, Knockout, and MongoDB on Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud platform, this solution was essential in translating available data to usable information.

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The recreation app Play in Peel makes it exceptionally easy for users in the Mississauga and Brampton area to search for any activities from arts & crafts to basketball leagues nearby.

Anyone living in Peel with access to the Internet on any device can now find out when and where particular activities are taking place. With a simple and user-friendly interface, users are able to enter their location and adjust search options based on customized criteria and be provided with a list of different activities and all the necessary information to plan their day accordingly. This keeps children and youth active in their community even after school hours.

Now, why exactly are recreational programs an important part to the youth community?

Between homework and chores, it’s important that children and youth are also provided with an enriching environment of fun and engaging activities. Without the accessibility to recreation and activities, many left alone during the after-school period may adhere to watching television or using the computer for long durations.

Play in Peel provides that opportunity for young boys and girls to stay connected and engage in daily moderate to vigorous activity. This paves the road for healthy living and well-being. It also opens up opportunities for the younger generation to build stronger interpersonal skills, develop lifelong physical activity habits, and be part of the community in a meaningful way.

For children and youth, the first point of doing so is really just to get in touch with what’s available in their community.

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Open Data is changing the app market and bettering the community

It’s clear that open data has opened up doors for people to come up with innovative ways in benefiting the community and its citizens. One of which, is building useful apps that really connect people. Play in Peel would not have been possible without The City of Mississauga and The City of Brampton opening up their recreation data for its citizens to consume.

Of course, open data is not the only essential factor. It took close collaboration between the two cities, PCYI, Microsoft Canada, and Web Nodes to bring after-school programming to the forefront of the youth community. Play in Peel is, thus, an excellent example of translating app-building to community-building.

And this is only just the beginning for the community application. The app will continue to evolve (with additional features) and expand (to include other communities), but it will need your help to do so.

Today, we are excited to announce that Play In Peel is available in beta at www.playinpeel.org. Please try out the app and let us know how we can make it even better.

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 Corinne Ho is a curious and creative person with a passion for understanding how the world around her works. This led her to pursue an undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and later, a marketing internship at People & Code. She is now a writer and contributor for Make Web Not War, where she is embracing a vast community of thinkers, inventors, and developers, united together by open source and a drive to bring the most amazing technology to the forefront. You can learn more about Corinne at the Web Not War blog. 

* This post originally appeared on WebNotWar on October 10th, 2013. It is re-published here with permission.

Play In Peel Inspires Youth Community & Improves Access to Recreation
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