PlayBuild Named Finalist In KaBOOM! $1 Million Play Everywhere Challenge

Kristen Hill, M. Arch candidate 2017, Tulane University Design Thinking Fellow, Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking
PL@Y MLK Rendering

NEW ORLEANS – Last week, PlayBuild, an education nonprofit based in Central City with a mission to transform under-utilized urban spaces into dynamic play environments for kids, was selected as a finalist in the Play Everywhere Challenge, a $1 million national competition that will award outside-the-box ideas to make play easy, available and fun for kids and families in cities across the U.S. The Challenge is hosted by KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all children, particularly those growing up in poverty in America.

         PlayBuild’s proposal – PL@Y MLK is for an innovative plan to create “play stations” in Central City along the neutral ground of Martin Luther King Boulevard. Three stations will be situated between Simon Bolivar and South Claiborne Avenues with pop-up play activities occurring on a rotating schedule in partnership with local organizations and businesses.

         PL@Y MLK was selected as a finalist out of a pool of more than 1,000 applications nationwide. By the end of July PlayBuild will implement a small pilot of the project to solicit feedback from the neighborhood and to formalize a final proposal to KaBOOM!. Winners will be announced in early fall 2016.

         The Challenge, developed in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Target, Playworld, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the National Endowment for the Arts, attracted an outpouring of creative ideas to spark kids’ imaginations and get their bodies moving. The PL@Y MLK concept came from a passion for getting kids more involved in design-based play activities.

         PL@Y MLK will create three Play Stations at key intersections along the MLK Boulevard corridor. The neutral ground is a natural gathering space. “We want to make it a fun and social zone for Central City kids,” said PlayBuild co-founder Angela Kyle.

         The concept for PL@Y MLK came from participants in the latest “Fast 48” weekend workshop this spring offered by the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Design Thinking and Social Innovation at Tulane University. After canvassing the neighborhood around the MLK and Claiborne Avenue intersection and speaking to neighboring churches and community members, following a human-centered design process; the workshop participants and PlayBuild team envisioned a way to create temporary pop-up play zones along the “neutral ground” or median on the wide boulevard. The planned stations will utilize the UNI pop-up kit – a wooden cart with benches which looks like a simple box on wheels but will unfold to reveal shelves of blocks, building toys and design-based games and puzzles to encourage creative and constructive play. A planned overhead installation by local artist, Jackie Inghlefield will provide a colorful shade structure over one of the stations.

         “We were astonished at the number and quality of the applications we received,” said James Siegal, CEO of KaBOOM!. “To us, it shows a huge, untapped potential to reimagine cities with kids in mind, and boost their opportunity to get the play they need to thrive. And when kids thrive, cities thrive.”

         PlayBuild reps said kids need play to grow up healthy, resilient and ready for life. Research shows play is vital to healthy brain development and is pivotal to how kids learn problem-solving, conflict resolution and creativity—in other words, the skills they need to succeed as adults. Yet today, too many kids, especially those growing up in poverty, are missing out on play because of families’ time pressures, the lure of screens, and a lack of safe places to go. Meanwhile, evidence shows missing out on the chance to play puts kids at risk for challenges ranging from obesity to anxiety to trouble adjusting in school.

         “We’re thrilled at the possibility to bring pop-up play to the neutral ground, and will be testing our concept over the next three weeks in preparation for the final round of the competition,” said PlayBuild’s Kyle. “If we’re selected as a winner, we can build on our current efforts in Central City around our Thalia Street play space and transform the MLK corridor into a highly visible zone for play and family-friendly activities.”

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