KABOOM! and Partners Win UNICEF Cities Inspire Award for San Francisco Playspace

Nature Exploration Area at Heron’s Head Park Named Winner of "Safe, Clean, Sustainable and Child-Friendly Environments" Category

Washington D.C. (November 19, 2021) · 

KABOOM!, the national non-profit focused on ending playspace inequity for good, and its partners were awarded the UNICEF Cities Inspire Award for the recently unveiled, kid-designed Nature Exploration Area at Heron’s Head Park along the San Francisco waterfront. The awards were announced ahead of World Children’s Day, observed annually on November 20, and recognize innovative projects across the globe that ‘foster child rights at the local level and improve the daily lives of children and young people in the cities and communities where they live’.

The Nature Exploration Area is a 12,000-square-foot playspace that encourages people of all ages to creatively engage with natural elements like logs, stumps, and boulders. The project promotes equitable access to outdoor play and nature in an area of San Francisco that has experienced chronic disinvestment and expands the role of Heron’s Head Park as an environmental education hub for youth. The Nature Exploration Area was recognized by UNICEF in the Safe, Clean, Sustainable and Child-Friendly Environments category.

“KABOOM! is honored by this recognition. We thank UNICEF and its partners for their commitment to amplifying projects that benefit the world’s youth, a task that has taken on new urgency with the COVID-19 pandemic. All the nominees and winners demonstrate that when we come together to put kids at the center of our circle of care, and when we listen to and invest in their dreams, amazing outcomes are possible.” said Lysa Ratliff, CEO of KABOOM!.

Research shows that play and exposure to nature are vital for children’s emotional, social, and physical health. However, access to both are too often correlated with race and economic status. The Nature Exploration Area is located within a 22-acre wetland park in San Francisco’s historically underserved Bayview Hunter’s Point community, where residents are predominantly people of color. A recent survey of 108 community youth nearby found that 23% rarely visit nature, underscoring both a need and opportunity to connect kids with the outdoors and environmental education.

The space was designed with input from five “Design Jam” events where more than 100 kids and other residents shared their unique ideas and desires for the space.

The Nature Exploration Area project was a collaboration between KABOOM! and a range of partners, including: Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds, Kaiser Permanente, the Port of San Francisco, San Francisco Children and Nature, and the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department.


KABOOM! is the national nonprofit committed to ending playspace inequity – the reality that quality places to play are not available to every child, especially in communities of color. Since 1996, KABOOM! has partnered with kids and communities to create or transform 17,000+ playspaces and ensure that nearly 12 million kids have equitable access to the crucial benefits and opportunities that playspaces offer. In 2022, KABOOM! launched the 25 in 5 Initiative to End Playspace Inequity, the $250 million plan to accelerate its mission in 25 high-priority locations over five years. Learn more at and join the conversation at,, and LinkedIn.