Last spring we were ecstatic to win the Greenbuild Legacy Project grant with our partners at Smith Memorial Playground from the Delaware Valley Green Building Council to work with youth in Philly to design and build an adventure play space at Smith. Six months later with many thousands of people starting to stream into Philadelphia for Greenbuild, Smith now has an absolutely one-of-a-kind ‘loose parts’ play space where kids can ‘Build Their Own Adventure‘. Created over the span of a month–with the leadership of the Building Hero Project, our young adult community design leadership program for 16 through 26 year olds–the project engaged numerous community organizations, hundreds of kids, parents and other volunteers from all walks of life in Philadelphia in the designing and building of the space. In many cases this meant children and adults got to swing hammers, pour concrete or even play in the dirt for the very first time in their lives. Needless to say, the number of temper tantrums from young children who didn’t want to stop building were in the hundreds.
Alone, these things are great outcomes and significant steps forward for ‘play’ and playgrounds in the incredibly risk averse culture that we live in today, but this project is also notable for the numerous new collaborations and projects that it spawned, as well as the impact it has had on the participants. Among other things, a course at Drexel University around green entrepreneurship was developed and has supported the project throughout; benches were donated to Smith by Price Waterhouse Cooper Philadelphia’s Green Team that are made by Terracycle from recycled Mars coffee pouches gathered in Philadelphia offices, connecting local businesses and building managers (BOMA) in new ways to play and sustainability; our Building Heroes worked with Terracycle to design and fabricate awesome all-weather, interconnecting building blocks from recycled Mars Drinks packets for the play space; our Building Heroes are donating their hard-won $500 IKEA gift card, sweat and design services to help Smith create a new children’s library; and PBS captured the incredible impact the project had on the sense of self-efficacy and leadership skills of our young adult Building Heroes. PBS‘s moving video about the project will be released on Edutopia and local PBS stations in late November. It goes without saying, that as great as these outcomes are, it’s only just the beginning and we can’t wait to see how this space, the new collaborations, the participants, the products and ideas that have developed will evolve in the coming months.