“Concrete jungle where dreams are made of?” are song lyrics to Jay-Z, but tens of thousands of city students have nothing but a concrete yard on which to play during recess.
New York City’s largest non-profit playground builder, Out2Play, has made it their mission to give children at disadvantaged city public schools bright and animated play spaces equipped with basketball courts and hopscotch sections in addition to the traditional slides and swings.
Andrea Wenner, founder and executive director of the organization noted, “Out2Play is a nonprofit that I founded in 2005. I was in business school before that and I found that we lacked playgrounds across NYC public schools. So in 2005 we built our first 12 playgrounds. We plan to complete about 40 this year.”
Out of the 37 concrete lots that are currently under construction, 11 of them belong to select public schools in Queens, including P.S. 9 in Maspeth, P.S. 31 and P.S. 169 in Bayside, P.S. 63 in Ozone Park, P.S. 71 in Ridgewood, P.S. 82 in Jamaica, P.S. 101 and P.S. 144 in Forest Hills, P.S. 111 in Long Island City, P.S. 188 in Flushing and P.S. 229 in Woodside.
Since 2005, Out2Play has transformed a million square feet of unused concrete lots into 80 completed playgrounds across the city, and is well on its way to completing its mission of building 155 new playgrounds by 2012.
According to Wenner, “We have seen a greater need for playgrounds predominantly in the Bronx and Brooklyn. While we prioritize neighborhoods of higher need, we want to make sure every public school has one eventually. We are supported by private donors, public officials and the NYC Department of Education (DOE).”
This past winter, the organization teamed up with the staff, parents, and school children that would be receiving playgrounds this spring and summer to design the custom playgrounds each school wanted.
Students at the schools will finally have the opportunity to utilize their new playground during recess, as well as during physical education class and whenever teachers find it fit to take their classes outdoors.
These playgrounds do not only provide entertainment for students but also offer health benefits. More than 43 percent of children are overweight and school children are twice as likely to be hospitalized because of asthma. Having these playgrounds at public schools will encourage enjoyable physical activity that is a necessity.