The state of Play is about to change in Boston. In July, Reimagine Play was named a finalist in KaBoom!’s Play Everywhere Challenge, a $1 million national competition that will award out-of-the-box ideas to make play easy, available, and fun for kids and families - especially those who lack access to safe, stimulating places today. KaBOOM! is the national non-profit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids, particularly those growing up in poverty in America. We were selected as a finalist out of over 1,000 applications nationwide. If we’re named as one of the 50 winners this fall, we’ll break ground starting in October 2016. We’ve got big ideas to spark kids’ imaginations while challenging with fun active play experiences, and we’re working hard to win the funds to make them happen.
Inspired by kids' love of obstacles, we sought feedback from kids and our community partners on their favorite structures and activities. We learned that the ability to build-your-own course was intriguing for both kids and their caregivers. Reimagine Play's proposal is to design “Conquer the Course,” Boston’s first mobile obstacle and adventure play course that engages both kids and adults in active play in their own neighborhoods.
If funded, this community built project will consist of a variety of artful, geometric structures and pieces which can be used to transform ordinary spaces into interactive play spaces, learning centers, obstacle courses, and fitness challenges. The installations will serve as a means of gathering communities around co-created physical activities that challenge the body and mind, and cultivate a desire for active play beyond the traditional playground. Engagement partners will include Boston Public Schools, Boston Public Health Commission, MassHousing and a number of other agencies and community organizations.
What does it mean to bring Play Everywhere to Boston?
It’s well known that kids need play to grow up healthy, resilient and ready for life. Research shows that play is critical for kids to learn problem-solving, conflict resolution and creativity, 21st century skills need to succeed as adults. Yet, too many kids across the U.S.— especially those in low-income neighborhoods— are not getting the play they need to thrive. Evidence shows that missing out on the chance to play puts kids at risk for challenges ranging from obesity to anxiety to trouble adjusting in school. While Boston leads the nation in community and environmental indicators, such as parks, park-spending and total recreational facilities, not all kids have the same access to places where they can engage in safe, creative activity, especially in Boston's poorer neighborhoods. Play is just too important to our kids’ healthy development for anyone to be left out.
The beauty of Conquer the Course is that the structures can be installed anywhere (in and outdoors) in countless configurations to engage kids of multiple ages and fitness abilities, meeting them where they are, says Betty Francisco, CEO and Founder of Reimagine Play. The Conquer the Course Project also has the flexibility to be installed temporarily as a play intervention, which allows for testing and feedback without large capital outlays or infrastructure commitments. Initial pop-up installations will be made in Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury. Thereafter, Conquer the Course will go on a neighborhood-to-neighborhood tour based on requests by community organizations.
We know more places to play builds better bonds—among kids, neighbors, and communities—and those relationships are the foundation for communities that thrive. Our Conquer the Course proposal is a modest but high impact opportunity for kids and their families to get active and creative in Boston's most under-served neighborhoods. If we’re selected as a winner, we hope it will be just the beginning of a larger effort to make play a way of life in everyday and unexpected places – sidewalks, vacant lots, bus stops, open streets. And we’re confident our idea isn’t just a great solution for Boston. It could be a bellwether for other communities across the nation who want to change the state of play for kids and families.
With more local investment and support, we can make this vision a reality — and take it to new heights. To learn more about Conquer the Course or to send endorsements to turn everyday spaces into PLAYces here in Boston, please contact Betty Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.