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play:ground is opening an adventure playground in NYC. A place for children to take risks, go on adventures and be in charge!
play:ground is opening an adventure playground in NYC. A place for children to take risks, go on adventures and be in charge!
535 backers pledged $30,559 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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$30,559

535

Our initial goal of $25k is met! 

New York City WILL have an adventure playground this summer!

Additional funding will enable us to extend the hours that we are open to the public. With your help, we will not only get up and running, we will become a model space for risk taking and free play. We are able to accept donations until the very end of our campaign - March 30th at 8:00pm, Eastern Time.

Every additional $1000 = an extra day of play time for young people! Our dream is to remain open 6 days a week in the summer, plus select days during the spring and fall for school field trips. 

More playworkers! (Img from Parish School)
More playworkers! (Img from Parish School)

Here are other ways we imagine taking play:ground to the next level:

  • purchasing an industrial bike to cart materials onto the island, or to bring free play supplies to a park near you (approximate cost: $1000)
  • planting trees for additional shade, fruit, and climbing on our site (approximate cost: $300
  • developing a rainwater catchment system to water our trees and garden (approximate cost: $200)
  • building a modest kitchen for kids to make their own snacks (approximate cost: $100)
More materials! (Img from Parish School)
More materials! (Img from Parish School)

Let's keep this rolling! 

Even $1 will help us buy seeds, art materials and other items to keep play:ground interesting!

Thank you all for your immense support! We are so honored and excited to bring an adventure playground back to New York City!

More growing! (Img from Parish School)
More growing! (Img from Parish School)

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Briefly, what is happening, why should I care and how can I help?

play:ground is opening an adventure playground on Governors Island, NYC, in May of 2016.

Imagine a place where children are free to decide what they do and how they do it.

A place continually re-created by children - their imaginations come to life.

Adventure Playground at The Parish School, Houston, TX
Adventure Playground at The Parish School, Houston, TX

A place full of treasures to discover and space to explore.

A place where they can imagine driving a car, cooking a banquet, living with wild animals or flying.

Adventure Playground at The Parish School, Houston, TX
Adventure Playground at The Parish School, Houston, TX

It’s a place where they can play on their own or with a group of children they may or may not know. A place where they are in charge!

It’s the kind of place NYC children deserve and don’t have access to… yet!

Help us turn this image into a reality by backing our project and spreading the word.

Adventure Playground at The Parish School, Houston, TX
Adventure Playground at The Parish School, Houston, TX

It sounds awesome, but why do we need this?

Free play is important for children’s social and physical development. We’ve got lots of articles and reports on it in our “Reading Room”. Today’s young people experience a tightly managed urban landscape, with rare access to spaces belonging entirely to them. Where are children actually free to self-organize, play all day by themselves, or independently create from their imaginations?

  • Free play helps children to build confidence and self-esteem, regulate their emotions, develop decision-making power and problem solving, and enhances teamwork skills.
  • Free play gives young people permission to take control.

Roger Hart, noted researcher on children’s rights and play environments, recently recounted his experience during our play:ground in the park event on Governors Island last September:

“I knew the event would be fun. But I wasn’t ready for the enthusiasm that my kids had for it … it was a profound experience for them and six months later they are still talking about it … here, for the first time, was a place where they were able to use materials to invent and build with other children - it was an adventure.”

Elaborate constructions at Governors Island “play:ground in the park” event, September 2015
Elaborate constructions at Governors Island “play:ground in the park” event, September 2015

 What does an adventure playground look like?

  • An open air space for young people to freely explore
  • A safe space for building, imagining and risk taking stocked with loose parts - recycled materials such as planks of wood, fabrics, cardboard, hay bales, tires, dirt and other objects that might otherwise end up as trash; these materials are made available to alter, reconstruct, reuse, or destroy!
  • Equipped with tools for making things - hammers, nails, hand drills, saws, screws, tape, glue, paint, chalk, dirt and water (for mud of course)!
  • A safe environment staffed by playworkers

More information on the history of adventure playgrounds

More reading material on and about adventure playgrounds

Adventure Playground at The Parish School, Houston, TX
Adventure Playground at The Parish School, Houston, TX

What is a playworker?

Playworkers are trained staff and are as important as the materials. The role of a playworker is to support and facilitate play. To do this, they:

  • Act like a ‘lifeguard’ for the playground
  • Enter when they are called in to assist, the children remain the leaders of their project
  • Facilitate the engagement of children new to the site
  • Assist children learning new skills

More information on playworkers in our “Reading Room

Playworker in The Land adventure playground keeping a distance to allow play while making sure the risk does not become a hazard. Courtesy of Erin Davis
Playworker in The Land adventure playground keeping a distance to allow play while making sure the risk does not become a hazard. Courtesy of Erin Davis

Who is making this adventure playground happen?

play:ground is a nonprofit organization started by two New York City parents and friends, Eve and Alex. Having children in the city made them realize how limited the opportunities are for play in a way that is free, connected to nature and to the world around them.

Eve and Alex quickly found many other supporters of free play who joined the team: Reilly, a playground researcher, Yoni, a circus acrobat teacher and performer, Philipp, a teacher, Robin, a playground design project manager, Jackie, an arts educator and playwright, and Anne, a health and education specialist. Together, these 8 playful adults are seriously devoted to giving NYC children the opportunity to play in a drastically different way.

Children immersed in play at "play:ground in the park" at Governors Island
Children immersed in play at "play:ground in the park" at Governors Island

play:ground has been working for about a year and a half to promote free play. Here is what has happened so far:

  • We have been hosting “play:ground in the park” days since December 2014. We’ve brought free play to neighborhoods around Brooklyn.
  • In September 2015 we hosted a huge two day event on Governors Island, attended by well over 600 children.
  • During January-February 2016, we have been in residence at Brooklyn Children’s Museum working with thousands of children of various ages.
play:ground in residence at The Brooklyn Children's Museum
play:ground in residence at The Brooklyn Children's Museum

Where do things stand now and how will this work?

  • We have secured an area of more than 15,000 square feet on Governors Island and will open in May of 2016.
  • We have hired an amazing and skilled playworker, Morgan Lechter-Saxby to train a team of playworkers to staff the site for the spring and summer.
  • play:ground will be free and open to the general public. The exact amount of time we will be open and free will depend partially on how well we do with the campaign.
  • In the summer we will hold a summer camp with a sliding scale fee.
Map showing Governors Island below Manhattan and the play:ground site on the Island
Map showing Governors Island below Manhattan and the play:ground site on the Island
A panorama view of the area designated for play:ground on Governors Island
A panorama view of the area designated for play:ground on Governors Island

What will the money go for?

We need your help to raise the funds to get the playground started. Our $25,000 campaign will cover our most basic costs and will start us off by covering the following:

  • $12,000 - Training and fair labor wages for our playworkers who are vital to adventure playgrounds
  • $3,500 - Initial setup. Fencing and materials for the site
  • $7,000 - Insurance, land deposit and legal fees
  • $2,500 - Kickstarter campaign fees

Unanswered questions?

If you have any questions for us, feel free to reach out through Kickstarter or through our website. We would love to be in touch and share more information.

Adventure Playground at The Parish School, Houston, TX
Adventure Playground at The Parish School, Houston, TX

Risks and challenges

Opening an adventure playground in New York City is a huge undertaking, and without a contemporary precedent. However, we have done a significant amount of research regarding the challenges that such playgrounds have faced historically within New York City and contemporaneously in other locations. From this research, we have identified several potential challenges that we might face.

First and foremost, the success of an adventure playground relies on the quality of staff training and support. Playworkers are the heart of such endeavors. In the United Kingdom, playwork is a profession that is shaped by a robust training system that includes university-level coursework and on-site apprenticeship. While we hope that the United States might one day offer that level of systematic training, at present our best option currently is to hire a playworker who was trained in the UK and has experience training others, as well as having worked on adventure playgrounds in the US and the UK. Morgan Leichter-Saxby, who will serve as our head-playworker and playwork trainer, has been in charge of playworker training at the Anarchy Zone in Ithaca, New York, as well as leading an interactive virtual playworker training course through her non-profit, Pop Up Adventure Play. Morgan is a highly skilled playworker and educator, and we are confident that her experience will help to guide us through the initial stages of running an adventure playground.

The second biggest issue is funding. As a non-profit organization without federal, state, or municipal support (yet) that aims to be free for the general public and which has to pay playworkers on site (and chooses to make it a living wage), we could run into trouble with having sufficient funds to pay for enough playworkers to meet user demand. Our solution is to run a paid summer camp (with financial aid slots available), apply for grants, and further fundraise. Moreover, we are seeking material donations to allow us to focus our funds on providing the biggest asset of the playground: the playworkers. Our last resort in case of shortage is limiting hours of operation to insure we can afford paying playworkers while not compromising the quality and safety of the play environment.

Another challenge is safety issues that arise from children working with tools, etc. This challenge directly embodies the goal of the playground and is handled daily with risk management done by the playworkers and their ever present watchful eye. Further, through our ongoing outreach activities such as play:ground in the park events in public parks, at Governors Island, and at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, we have experienced first hand that parents and caregivers are broadly aware of the need to introduce risk into play, yet are often frustrated by how to do this.

A final issue is one of land tenure. Governors Island presently can only offer us yearly leases. While we have high hopes of renewing our tenure on the island beyond the first year, we are also actively searching for other future locations for play:ground. However, even if we are only able to produce play:ground on Governors Island for one year, we feel that the level of publicity and the high number of unique visitors will be an important aspect in attracting other land offers and will make a difference in the lives of hundreds of children.

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    Thank you! Social media shout out - We want to thank anyone who helps!

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    Big thank you in the form of a big smile photo from play:ground team - Because a smile can lift a heart, we would like to offer you the one you put on our faces by helping us with this project, just as an electronic souvenir...

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    Be part of a massive photo collage smile on our website - Put on your biggest smile and send us your picture through email. We will make a beautiful collage on our website of all the smiles that helped us bring adventure play to the children of nyc!

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    Play with little stickers - Help us spread the word about free play by covering the whole world with free play stickers just like you loved doing as a child!

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    Artwork created by young people - Receive an original, one of a kind, piece of art work done by one of play:ground's youngest advocates who want to support this project and share their talent.

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    The New Adventure Playground Movement: How Communities across the USA are Returning Risk and Freedom to Childhood. Signed by authors Suzanna Law and Morgan Leichter-Saxby

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    Mini mystery adventure play kit - Bring the adventure to your home with minimal mess. Contained in an egg carton box you will receive different odds and ends to create and imagine.

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    2 day passes to the Brooklyn Children's Museum where we had our successful month long residency featuring free play. http://www.brooklynkids.org/

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    Signed copy of Savage Park by Amy Fusselman - Publisher comments: Part memoir, part manifesto, this exploration of the underside of America's obsession with safety is prompted by the author's visit to a thrillingly alarming adventure playground in Tokyo http://amyfusselman.com/

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    Your name in "cardboard" on our website - Join the entry level list of supporters on our website for eternal gratitude.

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    Tinkering class at Brooklyn Apple Academy on Tuesdays 3-5 P.M - During a tinkering session your children will be able to use the Brooklyn Apple Academy maker shop to make anything they can imagine! Noah and his team will have ideas, projects, and provocations in the wings in case your child needs one. The Maker shop includes a fully functional woodshop, access to electrical components and minor soldering, glue guns, boxes of creative supplies such as pipes, jewels, and stuffed animals. Come build! (classes must be scheduled in advance and redeemed by 6/10/2016)

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    T-shirt with play:ground logo - Wear your play:ground swag as a conversation starter and as an opportunity to promote children's rights.

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    Mystery adventure play kit - Bring the adventure to your home. Contained in a box, you will receive different odds and ends to create and imagine. Just like the mini kit, only bigger...

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    Your name on our fence posts - We will write your name on one of the fence posts surrounding play:ground, that way we will be surrounded by those who support us all the time!

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    Skype/hangout with Zayne, the son of one of our members. Zayne will share all of his knock knock jokes - Knock knock? who's there? one of our youth advisors has amassed quite a collection of knock knock jokes and he would love to share ALL of them with you. Join him for a short skype or hangout to hear all of his jokes. We promise it will be scheduled during his funnier hours!

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    A signed copy of Natural Playscapes by our adviser Rusty Keeler - http://rustykeeler.com/

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    Dual annual membership (admits one adult and one child) to the Brooklyn Children's Museum where we had our successful month long residency featuring free play. http://www.brooklynkids.org/

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    Wildlife of NYC: Set of 4 tea towels

    By artist and mother, Suzanne Kiggins, these four tea towels colorfully and playfully represent the diverse wildlife of NYC: Squirrels, Rats, Pigeons and Racoons. Images here: suzannekiggins.com

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    Entrance for one to an adult adventure play event - Because why should only children have an opportunity to play freely? Want your friend to join? Get them to support too!

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    Your name in "fabric" on our website + T-shirt - Join the list of second level supporters on our website for eternal gratitude and receive an awesome T-shirt!

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    Private partner arobatics lesson with our own acrobat, Yoni - Learn how you can fly past your wildest dreams and do things you couldn't imagine at The Muse Brooklyn circus studio. (redeem by December 2016) http://www.themusebrooklyn.com/

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    4 manny (man nanny) hours by our amazing Philipp - Take the night off and go to the movies while Philipp stays with your kids (can be used in Brooklyn and Manhattan only).

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    West coast adventure! - Take a group of 11-20 children for two hours of fun at the Berkeley Marina’s Adventure playground, our big sister. Start with the intro/ safety talk, get a tour and learn how to ride the zip line and then play & build & create to your hearts delight www.cityofberkeley.info/adventureplayground

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    A meeting with a souvenir - Meet for lunch with our adviser Dr. Roger Hart and get a signed copy of his book Children's Participation. This is a great opportunity to learn more from this remarkable man http://play-ground.nyc/people/#roger-hart

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    Family picture session with Harry Pocius - Certificate is good for a complimentary session with makeup and a matted 7x10 print, with a few other prints. Each print purchased comes with that image as a digital file. www.vhpsny.com

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    Private booth for 6 at The Muse Brooklyn monthly circus cabaret show http://www.themusebrooklyn.com/#!events/cxe6

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    1 VIP access to play:ground groundbreaking event - help us build our fence, while working with and meeting friends and enjoying snacks.

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    Your name in "wood" on our website + T-shirt + mini mystery adventure kit - Join the second highest level list of supporters on our website for eternal gratitude, get a T-shirt to wear and a mini kit for free play delivered to you!

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    1- hour education workshop on free play - invite us to a PTA meeting, a talk at a club or any group interested in the topic. (Redeem by December 2016. If the location is more than 30 miles from NYC, the workshop will be done through Skype conference)

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    Playscape coaching/consultation with our adviser Rusty Keeler - Write, chat and send pictures of the area you wish to transform and get to brainstorm possibilities and ideas on design, materials, planning, phasing, construction etc. www.earthplay.net

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    A week worth of adventurous play for a child at our summer camp http://play-ground.nyc/summer-camp/ (week of 7/11)

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    Help a child in need + T-shirt - Sponsor a week of adventurous play at our summer camp for a child who qualifies for financial aid based on income. In addition to knowing you helped a child in need, you get a T-shirt. http://play-ground.nyc/summer-camp/

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    Private partner acrobatics workshop for up to 20 people at The Muse Brooklyn circus studio - Come with a group of friends/family and see how much fun you can have together lifting each other, balancing one another and flying to new heights. (Redeem by September 2016)

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    Bounce house and obstacle course adventure event at The Muse Brooklyn for 12 kids - Celebrate a birthday, have a fun day with the extended family or whichever excuse you need to give the kids an opportunity to run and bounce (Redeem before September 2016)

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    play:ground in the park for your party - Would you like to include adventure play in an upcoming birthday party or a big family gathering? we will gladly lead the way for you (radius of 30 miles from downtown Brooklyn. Use by November 2016)

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    Your name in "fire" on our website + T-shirt + mystery adventure play kit - Join the highest level list of supporters on our website for eternal gratitude, get a T-shirt to wear and a kit for free play delivered to you!

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    Circus performers at your event - The circus spirit connects well with risky play through hanging in the air, eating fire and more. Let us bring the circus to you! We will provide you with high level circus entertainment from The Muse Brooklyn http://www.themusebrooklyn.com/#!booking/c2419 . radius 30mi by October 2016

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    Original oil painting by our very own Alex Khost - "Chez Oskar," oil on linen, 18" x 24" (45.72cm x 60.96cm), unfinished, to be completed in March 2016. For more details go to http://play-ground.nyc/kickstarter-painting-incentive/
    To see more in this series, you may go to the artist's website, http://deliciousdemon.com/

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    Name the tool shed - Our tool shed will need a name and you can choose to name it after your mother, childhood pet, fictional character or whatever comes to your mind.

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    Full week of private summer camp for 10 kids of your choice August 22nd-26th

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