Students help design, plan new school playgrounds

November 20, 2012 2:05:22 PM PST
Many of the playgrounds at New York City public schools aren't really playgrounds at all, just bare asphalt. Since 1996, the trust for public land has targeted those barren spaces to create colorful playgrounds, with the help of students themselves.

Children at P.S. 214 in the West Farms section of the Bronx have recess on a flat slab of asphalt, with a few tattered basketball hoops, flanked by the highway and subway. Uninspiring to say the least, but that is about to change.

"The playground is not much. There is only like asphalt there, nothing much," said Jerimiah Singh, a sixth grader. "We can make a really nice park."

Armed with their design sketchbooks, the children are planning a new playground through a partnership with the trust for public land.

Students are learning how adding trees, gravel and turf to the playground will help reduce storm water, which flows into the nearby Bronx River. It's a win-win for the community.

"The students are excited, our parents," said Nancy Castro, assistant principal at P.S. 214. "It's going to be a wonderful opportunity to work hand-in-hand with our parents and the community and our students. It's something that we have been waiting for a long time."

The participatory design process takes three months. The project is paid for by the trust, private partners and the parks department.

"We like to work with them to build their dream playground. We're putting in the kind of things they want to do, whether that's the basketball court, soccer fields, maybe it's a garden, an outdoor classroom, a place to read," said Mary Alice Lee, from the trust for public land.

P.S. 164 in Borough Park is a good example of a finished project. The students at P.S. 164 chose a forest theme for their playground. The steps even look like giant leaves. And the great part about it--when school is not in session, the neighborhood kids can use it as well.

A small running track winds its way through the space, a mini playhouse, trees, a sensory herb garden and a water fountain--a beautiful, colorful space for kids to use their imaginations.

Back at P.S. 214, there is almost an acre of land to work with; the possibilities are endless.

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