December 24, 2009

Play Matters Highlight: Boston Schoolyard

With the release of Play Matters, our new study of best practices to inform local policy and process in support of children’s play, we wanted to start sharing excerpts to highlight these great activities.

Meet the Boston Schoolyard Initiative:

This public-private collaboration, initially inspired by the green movement, has constructed new schoolyards across the city. With the leadership of Mayor Tom Menino, the Boston Schoolyard Initiative has transformed the outdoor physical space of more than 70 Boston schoolyards into colorful and engaging outdoor classrooms and places to play. The project enjoys ongoing public support and is a sustainable model that relies on public-private funding and a comprehensive maintenance program to provide accessible and high-quality play spaces.

From the beginning, Boston Schoolyard Initiative (or BSI) envisioned these playgrounds as both play and educational spaces. “Their proximity to schools cries out for a higher degree of interactivity, and they offer us the opportunity to combine recreation, creative play, and academic learning,” BSI notes in its literature.

Each of the redesigned playgrounds includes built structures and play equipment. Some include natural elements like boulders, trees, grass, and other plants. Features in the schoolyards are integrated into the curriculum. Tracks around the school offer math teachers the opportunity to teach students about circumference. Timing children as they run around the track helps teach calculation skills.

Boston has constructed or reconstructed schoolyards and outdoor classrooms at 71 of the district’s 130 schools, including almost 90% of the city’s elementary schools. The playspaces cover 125 acres and serve almost 30,000 students. BSI is on track to have 85 schoolyards completed by 2010.

Boston’s case study can be read in full here (pdf).

Learn more about Play Matters and download other sections.

This article originally appeared in Play Times, the monthly newsletter of the KaBOOM! Playmaker program. You can sign up here!

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