Photo Credit: Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for Eat. Learn. Play.'s
"Franklin Elementary School Playground, Court, and Garden Project"

StoriesHow Ending Playspace Inequity Creates New Spaces for Kids to Play, Learn, and Dream

Franklin Elementary’s New Schoolyard Shows the Power of a Playspace

By KABOOM! | August 5, 2021

When KABOOM! partnered with Franklin Elementary School to revitalize an outdated schoolyard, the possibility of a kid-designed playspace created a ripple effect across the Oakland community, bringing together countless individuals and organizations committed to creating a space that will help every Franklin student can unlock their greatest potential.

A Blueprint for Playspace Equity

KABOOM! wants to ensure every single child across the country to has a place like this one, where they can access the many physical, emotional, and mental benefits of play.

As Lysa Ratliff, KABOOM! CEO, says, “The playspace at Franklin Elementary School is incredibly special to KABOOM! because it shows us what is possible. When we amplify the power of communities, they go above and beyond to create a positive impact that will resonate for generations to come.”

Far too often, communities of color are the ones which lack access to high-quality playspaces. This was true of Franklin, which, located in a neighborhood with many newcomer and refugee families from more than 30 countries, is one of Oakland’s most diverse schools.

“This schoolyard is a dream – but making it reality for every kid, everywhere, is an issue of equity,” said Ratliff. “Our partnership in Oakland showed what’s possible across the board: when we work together, we can ensure that every kid has a place to play, thrive, and learn.”

Showing Up for Our Kids

In Oakland’s San Antonio-Eastlake neighborhood, parents and educators long saw the need for a high-quality playspace for their kids. Franklin, which is dedicated to promoting the healthy development of its 650 students, already offered full-time physical education teachers and daily recess. However, the schoolyard’s outdated playgrounds led more than 285 parents to petition Oakland Unified School District and private partners for help in creating a better place for their kids to play.

When Franklin and Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) announced their plan to create a new schoolyard alongside KABOOM!, Eat. Learn. Play., and The CarMax Foundation in November 2020, parents were immediately invested in the project.

Franklin Elementary students watch a surprise video from Stephen Curry announcing their new playground

Franklin Elementary students Dustin and Clayton watch a surprise video from Stephen Curry announcing their new playground.

They saw their kids’ excitement when basketball superstar Stephen Curry announced the forthcoming playground, multi-sports court, and garden. They watched their kids dream up their ideal playgrounds, sketching out challenging climbing structures, winding slides, and a flourishing butterfly garden that would soon be brought to life. Finally, Franklin parents like Lucille Carillo showed up to help bring an amazing new playspace to life.

Lucille’s son, Alessandro, attends the elementary school. Alessandro is autistic and has sensory needs and lots of energy. By volunteering alongside other parents, Lucille wanted to help create a place that would spark imagination and inspiration for Alessandro and his peers.

“I believe that wonder is the natural antecedent of imagination, and that every child needs a space to foster those needs,” said Lucille. “Play is a vital part of developing their young minds. It’s a small part I can give as a member of the Franklin community in exchange for what I know will be years and years of laughter, fun, memories, and wonder.”

A Place Where They Can See Themselves

Stephen Curry at Franklin Elementary Playground Build

“We want to give kids the best opportunity to be successful. Part of that is […] having somewhere to go that’s safe to play and explore their creativity. It’s also knowing that people are thinking about them.” Stephen Curry, Co-founder, Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation

The community-led effort to create an amazing space for Oakland’s kids to play went beyond Franklin parents. Volunteer representatives from CarMax and Eat. Learn. Play., leading funders for the project, helped to raise slides, lay court surfacing, and put finishing touches on the schoolyard’s new custom mural .

“CarMax cares deeply about the communities we are a part of and this transformative project was a great way for our associates to be hands on in giving back. We see the playground, multi-sport court, and garden as an important way to help kids at Franklin Elementary return to normalcy as they transition back into the classroom.” Ted Cox, CarMax.

Community Garden by Farmscape at Franklin Elmentary

FarmScape, a local urban farming company, signed on to help design a sensory garden, where kids could learn first-hand about the foods that could nourish their bodies.

DJ Agana paints the Franklin Elementary School Mural

Photos Credit: Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for Eat. Learn. Play.’s “Franklin Elementary School Playground, Court, and Garden Project”

DJ Agana, a local artist, adorned more than 7,000 square feet of wall space surrounding the playground with original artwork featuring diverse athletes, activists, and community leaders, inspired by students’ own sketches.

“It took a lot of love and a lot of community to get this going,” said DJ Agana. “We took the students’ ideas and created themes that connected with … the garden and the movement of the court and the playground. We wanted to… give life to the school so that when kids come here, they feel love, they feel empowered, and they connect with the stories on the wall.”

The result is a holistic outdoor space that sparks joy while also bolstering Franklin’s mission of educating the whole child, according to Franklin Elementary Principal, Lusa Lai.

“They can feel inspired and they can believe in themselves. The community has spoken really loudly that we believe in them,” said Principal Lai.

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