June 23, 2010

Happier kids: A KaBOOM! build, one year later

Bret Harte Elementary SchoolOne year ago today, First Lady Michelle Obama volunteered at one of our KaBOOM!-led builds at Bret Harte Elementary School in San Francisco.

For six hours, she joined California First Lady Maria Shriver and 329 members of Shriver’s CaliforniaVolunteers, as well as volunteers from the Points of Light Institute and the Corporation for National and Community Service National Conference on Volunteering & Service. Together, they transformed the school’s vacant play lot into an intergenerational playground and garden.

Now, one year later, the kids are playing on the equipment non-stop. The school principal was originally skeptical about whether the kids really needed a playground, and worried that the kids would stop playing asphalt games like kickball. Now, watching the children swarm the play structure, she can’t believe that they had ever been denied the opportunity to play and get active like this. “The kids who want to play kickball and jumprope still do, but I’d never realized that they needed so many different ways to play. They love their new playground... they absolutely love it,” she said. “Now, when the kids come back into the classroom, they’re able to sit down and pay attention, so the teachers love the new playground just as much as the kids!”

Bret Harte Elementary Michelle Obama

The school’s new vegetable garden is thriving too. So far, kids have grown and eaten potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, sweet peas, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, collard greens, onions, swiss chard, and more!

Upon witnessing the transformation at Bret Harte, First Lady Obama said, "We can't underestimate the value of having safe and quality playgrounds in every single community. That's why this project that we're doing here today is so important, and why organizations like KaBOOM! are necessary, not just to the health of our children but to the health of the entire nation.”

Since the playground build, Mrs. Obama has launched her “Let’s Move” initiative to end childhood obesity within a generation. This work is critical given the alarming rates of childhood obesity our nation has seen since 1970.

Let’s Move works with parents, schools, businesses, and communities to increase the amount of fresh produce children consume, and to increase the amount of time they play outside to the Surgeon General’s recommended minimum of 60 minutes per day.

But it’s difficult for many families to make sure their kids get to play every day. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that only about one in five homes have parks or playgrounds within a half-mile, and that this lack of access to a place to play every day is one reason children become overweight.

KaBOOM! is proud to work with the Let’s Move initiative to help address this play deficit, and is currently supporting communities across the country as they work to get their kids more active through play. We offer tools, tips, and resources to help anyone make their community more playful. Get involved! It’s easy and fun. You can :

  • Plan a KaBOOM! Play Day – Sometimes, parents and kids just need to remember how fun it is to play together outside, so at playday.kaboom.org, communities can organize fun field-day events that get the whole family active and having fun.
  • Support your local playground – At playspacefinder.kaboom.org, neighbors can connect, share, and discuss their favorite playgrounds. Parents can post safety issues, schedule playdates, or share good news.
  • Build/improve a playground – For playgrounds in need of TLC, kaboom.org offers a free interactive project planner that helps novices plan and execute park and playground improvement projects. From developing a timeline to recruiting volunteers and soliciting donations, kaboom.org condenses years of playground building experience into one easy-to-use tool.

In addition to working with nonprofits such as KaBOOM!, the Let’s Move Initiative is also working with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Today, the Council was even renamed the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition to include a focus on healthy eating as well as active lifestyles. We applaud the new, more holistic approach to children’s health.

By focusing on the importance of both play and nutrition, the entire community around Bret Harte is being transformed, which proves that it starts with a playground. Parks, playgrounds, and gardens are shared spaces that are critical to our individual well-being, and the well-being of our communities. Join KaBOOM! as we work with communities across the country to create more playgrounds and make communities more active and playful.


Craig NewmarkCraigslist founder Craig Newmark was also at the Bret Harte Elementary School playground build a year ago today. He had a wonderful time, though he now admits, "It was wise to keep me away from the power tools..."

kaboom! news, san francisco, michelle obama, bret harte elementary school, let's move