Friday, July 22, 2016

The Building Blocks for the Grant Avenue Elementary School Playground

This post comes to us from Bronx Health REACH public health intern, Diana Litsas.

Active Design is an exciting new approach to renovate spaces that encourages children in school to enjoy the physical, emotional, and social benefits of play and exercise1. In an effort to increase physical activity, Bronx Health REACH uses Active Design in Schools to engage students and other non-profit organizations in developing a plan for children to be active and play. Each of these projects is unique, adapting to school needs of space and budget.

Bronx Health REACH (BHR) is excited to be working on an Active Design Project to create a more engaging play yard at Grant Avenue Elementary School. Currently the outdoor space is a barren, narrow strip of concrete—a play area that seems especially inadequate as it faces a full-functioning playground which belongs to a neighboring school (the other school is overcrowded as it is, and unable to share facilities with Grant Avenue). Grant Avenue’s planned solution is an Imagination Playground2, which features movable pieces (“big blue blocks”) that allow for more dynamic and creative play compared to the fixed structures of a typical playground.

BHR joined a recent visit with Grant Avenue elementary school as they explored the Imagination Playground flagship in Burling Slip. Upon their arrival to the park, the students immediately began playing, despite the unfamiliar set of playground elements. These foam pieces encourage students to move in safe and creative ways, as they are made in a variety of shapes and sizes that give students versatility while they play with them2. While some blocks can be carried, others are bigger than some students themselves! The students built large “house” structures, as they referred to them, or use the blocks as a place to sit and socialize. Some students even arranged two rectangular blocks to construct a seesaw! The pieces were made out of a hard foam material is durable enough to withstand outside elements while being soft enough for students to stay safe when they fell on them. Few students used the blocks by themselves; most preferred to collaborate with classmates while building.

It was clear that using the blocks necessitated communication and patience among students, as they had to share and negotiate the use of certain blocks. Teacher Diana Castillo expressed her confidence that the blocks would be well received at Grant Avenue Elementary School based on the limited space they require, and how much the kids enjoyed using them.

1The Partnership for a Healthier New York City

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