About this project
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.
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)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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”
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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