There's something special about a kid's sense of wonder and intrigue while looking at the world. We were reminded of this several weeks ago, when a group of students came to our Washington D.C. headquarters with the After-School All-Stars Program, as part of the Career Exploration Opportunities (CEO) initiative. They came to learn about our work and to gain a more well-rounded idea of future career options.
We led them through an activity designed to get them thinking about our vision for cities to incorporate play everywhere. First, we went outside to the courtyard in front of our office building. They broke into groups to explore the area and think about different ways they could make it more playable. Then, we passed out coloring supplies and had the students sketch out their ideas.
"When I went outside and saw the plaza, my first thought was that we have to make more space," said Anthony, a 12-year-old participant. "Most plazas don't have things that 'wow' people. I want everyone to be amazed."
After the students had a chance to draw their ideas with crayons, we went back into the office. With shoe boxes, pipe cleaners, clay, and other art supplies, the groups transformed their drawings into 3-D dioramas of their new play spaces. When they finished, each group presented their project to the rest of the class.
We were amazed with what these kids came up with; ideas ranged from turning the fountain into an aquarium to setting up climbing boulders. Perhaps the most surprising aspect was the students' determination for inclusivity. One group thought to include a moving walkway with handrails for seniors and people with disabilities. It seemed fitting that a play space should be accessible for all people.
Once Anthony finishes school, he would love to be a pro football or basketball player. But if that doesn't work out, he'd like to be a contractor or an engineer. "I want people to appreciate and enjoy things that I build. I want kids to pass by and say 'I like that building. Can we go in there, Mom, Dad?'"
Seeing the enthusiasm of Anthony and his classmates throughout the afternoon, it was clear that they were inspired to take on the challenges that lay ahead. And we were, too.