Peterborough’s Rockin’ Creativity, Community-building

Rock decorating therapeutic says child, youth worker

LEAD Rock Art Natalie Hamilton
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While walking through the city’s parks, subdivisions and main core, keep an eye peeled for something round and colourful underfoot.

Whether it’s a happy face, an animal or a feel-good message, decorated rocks are fostering creativity and cultivating community-building in Peterborough.

Residents paint and hide or place rocks in various areas of the community. The lucky person who finds the gem can keep it or re-hide but either way is encouraged to spread the word about the initiative by posting to the rock “club’s” Facebook group.

There are many reasons the Facebook group — Peterborough Ontario Rocks – Act of Kindness and its intentions — quite simply, rock.

Jonathan Hickson, in yellow, climbs a hill and hides rocks in Jackson Park.

Jonathan Hickson, in yellow, climbs a hill and hides rocks in Jackson Park.

Jac-Lyn Marren co-founded the group with fellow Peterborough resident and friend Crystal Dewitt. It serves as the foundation for showcasing local decorated rocks, reporting finds and encouraging participation.

The thrill of discovery and exploring the community on foot are but two of the rock-solid benefits of the initiative.

“It’s kind of neat to the see the joy that something simple brings people,” Jac-Lyn tells Electric City Magazine.

“It’s neat to hear the story about how it impacts other people.”

The endeavor for the person with paintbrush in hand can be a healing and calming experience. So much so, the group was born from a therapeutic program Jac-Lyn offers in the pediatric unit of Peterborough Regional Health Centre where she is employed as a child and youth worker.

About two years ago, an innocent discovery of a rock with its shape resembling a turtle sparked the exploration of rock painting.

For the rock decorator, “it’s very therapeutic,” Jac-Lyn says.

“Even for the kids who say they can’t draw or they aren’t artsy, the sense of accomplishment when they finish something — it kind of builds them up.”

The people she supports may be facing mental health and/or struggles at home so it’s great to see a positive impact on their well-being, she says. After decorating, the rocks are placed throughout the hospital and on the grounds.

rock painting crop

Jac-Lyn’s children enjoy rock painting.

Since the initiative was so well-received by patients and visitors, Jac-Lyn and Crystal teamed up to broaden the audience and the initiative by creating the Facebook group.

In addition, while looking online for decorating ideas, Jac-Lyn learned about various rock and kindness-inspired projects in other communities and recognized an opportunity for Peterborough.

At home, she provides paint and brushes so her own children, six-year-old twin boys and a three-year-old daughter, can partake in the rock-painting fun.

Now that the weather is improving, Crystal invites community members to get rockin’ and help bring smiles to others.

“I can’t wait to start painting and getting out to enjoy the great outdoors,” she says.

To take part, visit and request to join the Facebook group.

Meanwhile, read about how rock painting and its intended random act of kindness, sparked a global movement.

Lead image rock art and photo by Natalie Hamilton.

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