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'Playful Boston' to incorporate innovative approaches to civic life

Playful Boston projects will support and further explore the positive impacts of playfulness in unexpected spaces across the City.

The Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM) today announced the launch of Playful Boston, a coordinated citywide effort to incorporate engaging, innovative and playful approaches to civic life and municipal work. As part of this effort, the city also announced the launch of Play Around the City, a public competition to reimagine Boston Public Schools bus stops with temporary, playful interventions. This competition is an initiative of the Public Space Invitational (PSI), MONUM's program to reimagine Boston's public spaces and make them more intuitive, beautiful and delightful.

Research from behavioral scientists and other cities suggests that playful activities in untraditional spaces can increase an individual's learning ability and help develop skills such as collaboration, communication and adaptability. Playful Boston aims to test the impact of playful interventions, events, and spaces on community interactions and civic engagement. The goal is to enhance Boston's existing space-based play areas -- such as our existing network of playgrounds and parks. Playful Boston is a partnership between New Urban Mechanics, the Mayor's Office of Resilience and Racial Equity, and the Mayor's Education Cabinet.

"Play and playfulness are critical to building skills for lifelong learning," said Turahn Dorsey, Chief of Education. "Mayor Walsh and the Education Cabinet believe this and are excited to incorporate this consideration into everyday life for all Bostonians. Play Around the City envisions the city as both a classroom and playground that enables younger and older people, alike, to playfully imagine, learn, and connect."

Play Around the City is calling for respondents to submit their ideas on how to reimagine Boston Public School bus stops to bring creative, fun, temporary and playful activations for the benefit of students and families. Four bus stops, in the communities of East Boston, Fields Corner, Garrison Trotter, and Roslindale, will be included in the initial round. Play Around the City is a partnership between New Urban Mechanics, the Boston Children's Museum, Playworks New England, and the BuildBPS team.

"Play Around the City is an approach to how we can support more curious, collaborative, and resilient future generations," said Lori Nelson, the newly appointed Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Boston. "Equitable access to playful spaces requires approaches that meet Bostonians where they are. This means bus stops, corner markets, laundromats, sidewalks, and more. These are the spaces where communities, young and old, can develop habits of resilience every day."

"For 105 years Boston Children's Museum has engaged children and families in joyful discovery experiences," says Kacy Hughes, Senior Manager of Community Engagement at Boston Children's Museum. "We believe in the intrinsic value of play and recognize that play is the vital activity that children use to learn about and interact with their world to gain the mental, physical and social skills necessary to succeed in their adult lives.  Playful learning must be encouraged everywhere that families are gathering. We are thrilled to be part of Play Around the City!"

Four projects will be selected for funding, one at each bus stop. Projects must be temporary (4-6 months), ready for implementation within 2-3 months, and meet a budget of $2,000. The most advantageous projects will be those that can be implemented immediately, with succinct and thoughtful plans for implementation. Proposals should have both the potential and plan for scaling to more locations in the future.

All applications must outline safety hazards and how they will be mitigated with the proposed playful intervention design. Winning proposals will go through the Public Improvements Commission to ensure the safety of everyone participating in the playful interventions is taken into consideration.

"Play is one of the most important ways children, and adults, learn," said Jonathan Gay, Executive Director of Playworks New England. "Playtime helps us be more active, as well as develop crucial social-emotional skills. We're excited to work with the city to create more opportunities for play. And what a great place to start - the bus stops. If we can get citizens of all ages engaged in play at the start and end of their days, I'm confident the entire city will be a happier and healthier place."

To apply, please submit a formal application. The final deadline for Play Around the City proposals is 3 p.m., Friday, June 15, 2018.

More information about Playful Boston and other projects on the horizon can be found at

About the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics

As the city's civic research and design team, the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics pilot experiments that aim to improve the quality for life for Boston's residents. The office was formed in 2010 as one of the first municipal innovation offices in the world. The team's research and design projects tackle a range of topics -- from civic engagement to city infrastructure to education. Learn more about the team.

About the Mayor's Office of Resilience and Racial Equity

The Mayor's Office of Resilience and Racial Equity leads efforts to help Boston plan for and deal with catastrophes and slow-moving disasters - like persistent racial and economic inequality - that have become part of 21st century life. Learn more on the Resilience website.

About BuildBPS

BuildBPS is a dynamic and strategic document, as well as an interactive digital tool, which provides the City of Boston, Boston Public Schools, and Boston's residents with the data and guidance to bring Boston's school buildings into the 21st Century. This master plan not only encompasses the aspirations and goals of all stakeholders, but lends the data and ideas needed to bring them to fruition.

About the Boston Children's Museum

Boston Children's Museum has served as a field leader in creating innovative exhibits and programs for decades, with the world's first "hands-on" exhibit (What's Inside, 1960s); the world's first exhibit designed specifically for very young children (PlaySpace, 1970s); pioneering science exhibits (Bubbles and Raceways, 1980s); and groundbreaking exhibits about world cultures (Kids Bridge and Teen Tokyo, 1990s). Many of these exhibits and programs have been replicated in other museums around the world, and our most recent exhibits like KidPower, Peep's World and Countdown to Kindergarten continue that legacy today. Learn more about the Museum.

About Playworks New England

All kids deserve the social, emotional, and physical benefits of play. Playworks helps schools and youth programs create healthy play environments where every child can join in. Learn more about Playworks.

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