Ivan Chermayeff and Melanie McElduff

Open Space Institute/NTTL

Grant Awarded: $25,000

New York City’s PlaNYC initiative will be opening nearly 300 schoolyards as public parks and play spaces. Two-thirds of these will be reconstructed or refurbished. Recognizing the importance of community engagement, the “Schoolyards to Playgrounds” program involves design teams of students and teachers working with planners and landscape architects to select equipment and landscaping for their new playgrounds.

Chermayeff & Geismar will create a kit promoting the SciencePlay concept to the teams working on the PlaNYC initiative. SciencePlay enhances this participatory design process by offering science-focused play equipment, paintings, and programs — simple and unexpected ways to make science and nature more accessible to diverse communities throughout the city. The need to advance science learning is urgent. According to the U.S. Department of Education, 82% of high school seniors lack proficiency in science, scoring lower than twelfth graders four years earlier. In national science tests, urban public school students fared worse than their peers nationwide.

The NYC Department of Education serves over one million students at 1,450 schools. SciencePlay is likely to be implemented at close to 100 of these, but the potential impact reaches beyond the student population. Since the playgrounds will be open to the public after hours, on weekends, and throughout the summer, SciencePlay will generate community interaction around the natural phenomena and science-learning components at these neighborhood parks. The SciencePlay kit will include materials and guidelines for the design teams along with templates for outreach materials to raise local awareness and interest.