Tucson, AZ (September 22, 2016) – South side Tucson’s Pueblo Gardens Pre K-8 School, will soon see a major transformation at its doorstep thanks to a grant from the KaBoom! Play Everywhere Challenge, a $1 million national competition that will award innovative ideas to make play easy, available, and fun for kids and families in cities across the U.S. The Challenge, developed in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Target, Playworld, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Endowment for the Arts, attracted an outpouring of creative ideas to spark kids’ imaginations and get their bodies moving.
Tucson non-profit organization, Living Streets Alliance (LSA), was one of the 50 applicants to be funded out of over 1,000 proposals from across the nation. For the past two years LSA has worked with Pueblo Gardens School through its Safe Routes to School Tucson program in partnership with the City of Tucson, encouraging youth and families to bike and walk through encouragement activities and events throughout the school year. LSA sought funding to create low-cost street safety enhancements after an analysis from national biking and walking consultants, Toole Design Group, recommended street infrastructure upgrades that would help calm traffic, mitigate congestion, and enhance safety around Pueblo Gardens School.
“I’m thrilled to see this neighborhood finally getting some improvements,” says Vanessa Cascio, a Safe Routes to School coordinator with LSA who also attended Pueblo Gardens School as a child. “Until now, Menor Stravenue has been exactly the same as it was when I was a kid – hot, exposed, lacking any sort of green, and generally neglected. I love that it will finally get some attention and become a fun and inclusive place for the school and neighborhood.”
Within two months, Menor Stravenue will see the addition of murals, street trees, enhanced crosswalks, creative play stations and more, to improve safety and increase physical activity and play for students and neighborhood residents.
“Winners like Living Streets Alliance are at the vanguard of building kid-friendly cities that meet the needs of families and enable kids to thrive,” said James Siegal, CEO of KaBOOM!. “By integrating play into everyday spaces in such an innovative way, LSA’s project is a great model to inspire other cities across the country to follow suit.”
Research shows play is vital to healthy brain development and is pivotal to how kids learn problem-solving, conflict resolution, and creativity–in other words, the skills they need to succeed as adults. Yet today, too many kids, especially those growing up in poverty, are missing out on opportunities for play because of families’ time pressures, the lure of screens, and a lack of safe places to go. Meanwhile, evidence shows missing out on play time puts kids at risk for challenges ranging from obesity to anxiety to trouble adjusting in school.
Seth Aleshire, Principal at Pueblo Gardens School sees the street transformation as an opportunity to build community as well as provide a better environment for his students around the school. “This grant will be a community service project that not only seeks to keep our students safe, but will bring the children and families together to be a part of the revitalization that this historic, hardworking, and incredibly resilient neighborhood has earned.” Students at Pueblo Gardens School will conduct interviews with neighborhood residents that will inform a mural along Menor. Others will learn about mandalas and generate ideas for the design of streets murals in the middle of two intersections along Menor.
To learn more about the Play Everywhere Challenge, and view a gallery of winning ideas from cities across the US, please visit http://kaboom.org/playeverywhere.
Rendering by Gabby Jehle