5-For-5:  How Are We Doing?

PlayBuild recently turned 5 years old.  We’ve come a long way since we started, but we still have a long way to go to stabilize resources and ensure that we can create long-term impact in Central City and beyond.

With emerging opportunities like the Claiborne Corridor Cultural Innovation District, and demands for more school and event partnerships, we are using our 5-year milestone to hit pause and take stock of our current performance, and our near and short-terms needs.

PlayBuild’s program delivery is driven by people, and we need funding to hire and train them, especially our network of community mentors.

Transportation will also help us stabilize our neighorhood efforts and to bring kids safely from across Claiborne and MLK and from other parts of Central City to our Thalia Street space.


Our 5-Year Scorecard

PlayBuild Scorecard for their 2017 Programs
Neighborhood Open Play – In the past sponsorship support and GiveNOLA funds have enabled up to hire community mentors and to produce a consistent weekly schedule of after-school programs and seasonal weekend events. 

Short-term needs:  funding to hire community mentors to staff Thalia Street consistently five days a week after-school and for weekend family and event programming

Long-term needs:  transportation to shuttle our PlayBuilders from different parts of the neighborhood to Thalia Street and to take small groups on field trips and other excursions

  • PlayBuild in Schools – We are looking to build on our partnership with First Line Schools, which is currently in its second year. Last week we hosted our Langston Hughes Academy 2nd graders for their first trip to Thalia Street.

These kinds of outings and experiences are key to getting our PlayBuilders out into the City to experience the richness of New Orleans architecture and neighborhood history firsthand.

Short-term needs:  We want to offer more field trip and learning excursions to our Langston Hughes students and to other groups of students across the First Line Network

Long-term needs:  In order to expand our schools program we need to invest further in curriculum content and growing our instructional capacity.  We’re working on those plans now and will share more in 2018.

  • PL@Y MLK – Our PL@Y MLK pilot ended in the Spring, but we’re looking to bring play back to the neutral ground, and to make the program bigger and better in 2018. We need to implement some design features on the corridor for safety, and to build a coalition of partners and collaborators who can help us create an Open Streets movement in 2018.  We’ll kick off in January during MLK Weekend with a goal of popping up weekly throughout the spring, and building momentum for an Open Streets initiative in the summer.

Short and long-term needs:  a local sponsor to support our efforts to create environmental design elements and offset costs of moving and storage.

  • Events – We’ve just wrapped our event season for 2017, and are going into planning mode for 2018 with an eye on April which is when our biggest events happen including Jazz Fest, Zurich Classic and Mini Maker Faire.

Short and long-term needs:  an umbrella sponsor to support our entire events program would stabilize our efforts and ensure that we can deliver a more consistent experience for kids and families across the multiple events that we produce each year.

  • “Learning Through Play” Curriculum Design– in the Spring we completed an important phase of Research & Development work led by Advisory Board Member, Dr. Michael Hanson and a team of Masters student researchers at Columbia Teachers College. Building on 3 months of research into how kids learn through play, Michael’s work identified 8 learning outcomes to provide the foundation for our Learning Through Play Curriculum, and guide our content development.

Short and long-term needs:  we need a long-term strategic partner or source or funding to complete the next phase of this work.


Our Season of Thanks + Giving

In honor of our 5-year milestone we are kicking off a season of Thanks + Giving to acknowledge the supporters who have brought us to where we are today, and to solicit support for our year-end fundraising efforts.

Next Tuesday, November 28th is Giving Tuesday, and we invite you to support our mission and our work with a tax-deductible contribution.

Our 5-For-5 vision and roadmap are ambitious, and we won’t get there without your continued support.


You can make an immediate impact on the work we do in Neighborhood and Schools with a $25, $50 or $100 contribution.

For our longer-term initiatives – PL@Y MLK, our Events Program, and our “Learning Through Play” Curriculum Development initiative we need deeper pockets and deeper partnerships.

We invite you to get in touch if you or your company has an interest in sponsorship, or your organization might be a good fit for a strategic partnership to help us reach some of our larger goals.

Welcome Team DeltaCorps for our Capacity Building Year

Over the summer we were excited to receive the news that our application to the Delta Regional Authority for the 2018 DeltaCorps program was successful.

With DRA’s support, we recruited and have now on-boarded three new team members, PlayBuild’s very first full-time team.

In September, Aly Briscoe joined us at our Partnerships Coordinator and volunteer Katie Fronek, transitioned in to a full-time role as our Volunteer Coordinator. Then in October, we recruited Haley Crane to join us as our Events Coordinator.

DeltaCorps service members attend a Girl Scouts event in New Orleans, Louisiana, in October 2017. From left, Partnerships Coordinator Aly Briscoe, Events Coordinator Haley Crane, and Volunteers Coordinator Katie Fronek.

These three team members will be with us for one year helping us build capacity by creating systems and processes to help us triple the number of low-income kids that we serve in our neighborhood and events programs, and stabilize our numbers of active volunteers.

The team is being supervised by our Founding Advisory Board member, Lisa Osborne  in the role of Interim Program Manager. The team is also being advised by Angela Herbert, former Head of After School and Extracurricular Programming at First Line Schools.

Team PlayBuild is currently working out of the Blue House a few blocks from Thalia Street.

PlayBuild Named Winner in KaBOOM! Play Everywhere Challenge

$15K Grant Will Fund Phase One of PL@Y MLK Bringing Play to the MLK Neutral Ground

[NEW ORLEANS, LA]. – This week, PlayBuild was selected as a winner in the 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 is hosted by KaBOOM!, a national non-profit dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids, particularly those growing up in poverty in America.

PlayBuild, in partnership with the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking at Tulane University will receive $15,000 of funding to launch Phase One of PL@Y MLK – transforming the neutral ground of the Martin Luther King corridor in Central City as a weekend play destination for kids and families.

PL@Y MLK was selected as one of 50 winners out of a pool of more than 1,000 applications nationwide.

Working in collaboration with Taylor and local community partners, PlayBuild will deploy a mobile PL@Y MLK play station full of large and small-scale toys, games and creative play activities on the MLK neutral ground. Temporary seating will enable kids and families to gather and play.

Phase One will see the launch of the first mobile play station on MLK in November. Later phases of the project will see the rollout of additional themed play stations, which will be housed with community partners along MLK Boulevard between Simon Bolivar and Claiborne Avenues. PlayBuild will fundraise an additional $30K with a goal of implementing the project fully by mid-2017.

The Play Everywhere Challenge was 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. It has attracted an outpouring of creative ideas to spark kids’ imaginations and get their bodies moving.

The PL@Y MLK concept came from a desire to reach more Central City, New Orleans kids with PlayBuild’s unique program to engage them in design-themed play with a range of innovative toys and materials. PlayBuild operates from a formerly blighted that has been converted into an outdoor classroom. PlayBuild’s play space is located at 2828 Thalia Street, one block from Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Angela Kyle, Playbuild co-founder explains: PL@Y MLK originated from a neighborhood experience in April 2016 with the Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking. Feedback from residents of the MLK corridor between Simon Bolivar and Claiborne Avenues confirmed that access to everyday play spots is a challenge. Kids still lack play opportunities within a safe walking distance. Creating and regularly mobilizing our portable play station along MLK, we hope to address that challenge.

PlayBuild will work closely with with local anchor institutions like churches and community centers and will recruit neighborhood residents and Tulane University students to help implement, refine the designs, run play stations, and monitor and evaluate impact.. 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.

“Winners like PlayBuild and the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking 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, PL@Y MLK is a great model to inspire other cities across the country to follow suit.”

“Winning this challenge is a win for New Orleans kids, and for their chances to grow and develop through play,” said Angela Kyle, Co-founder of PlayBuild applicant. “This prize will help us build on the work we are doing in Central City by creating a portable and visible way for PlayBuild to have a presence on the MLK corridor and meet more neighborhood kids and parents. We hope this prize will be a bellwether for Central City and set an example for all of New Orleans. Starting here on the neutral ground we can design a real, radical transformation to make play a way of life for all kids and families in our community. PL@Y MLK addresses equity issues in New Orleans at ground zero by making play accessible especially in underserved neighborhoods.”

To learn more about PlayBuild’s ideas for making play happen everywhere in Central City, and across New Orleans, and to express interest in partnering with PL@Y MLK contact PlayBuild co-founder Angela Kyle by email at info@playbuild.org.

Visit PlayBuild online at: www.playbuild.org, on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/PlayBuild, and follow on Twitter: @PlayBuild_NOLA

For press queries contact Amy Barrios at MultiMedia Solutions by phone at 504-621-5646

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.


About PlayBuild
PlayBuild is a three-year old education non-profit based in Central City. PlayBuild’s mission is to transform under-utilized urban spaces into dynamic play environments for kids. In 2013, PlayBuild turned a blighted lot on Thalia Street into an outdoor classroom, hosting neighborhood charter schools for after-school activities. In 2014 PlayBuild partnered with Palmisano Contractors to fulfill the dream of a permanent play space with an open-air classroom, green space and a garden. Beyond Central City, throughout the year PlayBuild produces pop-up play events for kids and families in partnership with local community organizations. For more info please visit: www.playbuild.org. You can follow PlayBuild on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/PlayBuild, and on Twitter at @PlayBuild_NOLA


About the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Design Thinking and Social Innovation
Taylor dissolves boundaries and inspires collaboration between students, staff, faculty, and community members to develop innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social and environmental problems. Founded in 2014 with a generous gift from Phyllis M. Taylor, the center coalesces campus and community engagement in social innovation, social entrepreneurship, and design thinking, providing a unique interdisciplinary inter-section of thought and action on our campus and in our local and global community. Activities at Taylor include an academic minor, workshops, speakers, competitions, and other programs working with diverse faculty, staff, students and community partners.


PlayBuild wins Play Everywhere grant to bring mobile play stations to Central City New Orleans

After months of hard work, we are thrilled to be able to share our vision for PL@Y MLK and to announce that we are among the 50 winners of the Play Everywhere Challenge, a KaBOOM-hosted, nationwide contest to bring play to everyday places and spaces in underserved communities.

The seed for PL@Y MLK was planted in April 2016, when we partnered with the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking for our second Fast 48 Design Thinking Boot Camp. Thirty design thinkers joined us for 48 hours over a weekend to rapid prototype community development ideas that would help PlayBuild engage a broader cross section of organizations in Central City. Plus help us serve more children in that neighborhood, which is home to our outdoor classroom where we do afterschool programming and host field trips.

Fast 48 Design Thinking Workshop 2016 -


Fast 48 Design Thinking Workshop 2016 - Mapping the neighborhood around PlayBuild's Thalia Street outdoor location

A key insight from neighbors and community residents was a need for PlayBuild to raise its visibility in the neighborhood (our classroom site is tucked away on a side street) and offer more frequent opportunities for community members to engage with PlayBuild’s programming and play activities. In addition, several members of the church across the street from our site expressed a desire for us to bring our outreach program to them and engage their youth ministry in much the same way that we engage with local schools.

Based on this feedback, one of the Fast 48 teams brainstormed solutions for “hyper local play.” This concept eventually evolved into the idea of “pop-up play events,” targeting a tightly-focused pedestrian zone within a 5-10 block distance of our Thalia Street home base.

Graphic showing first phase of Play MLK initiative, planned for MLK Blvd in Central City, New Orleans

When the KaBOOM Play Everywhere Challenge was announced in May, we pulled our team of weekend warriors back together and went to work on developing this kernel of an idea into a viable proposal.

We needed to create a mobile version of the ‘PlayBuild experience’ that would function as an extension of PlayBuild, yet enable us to broaden our reach and expand our neighborhood footprint. Almost like “PlayBuild To Go.”

Luckily, we knew just the people to ask! Leslie and Sam Davol, co-founders of the UNI Project, have been friends and founding partners of PlayBuild since we started. When we reached out to them, they proposed their mini mobile cart as the perfect solution for our needs and we agreed.

We submitted our initial Play Everywhere proposal in June, and in July, we were invited to the finalist round.

In true design thinking fashion, conversations with potential local partners led us to iterate the initial concept, which we decided to brand PL@Y MLK.

A big focus of our discussion was around using the neutral ground (i.e., what we call a median in New Orleans) along Martin Luther King Boulevard as our chosen location for staging PL@Y MLK play stations. A few team members did a deep dive into the history and significance of the neutral ground as we considered the pros (visibility) and cons (safety) of situating play activities along a highly trafficked corridor.

As we grappled with this conundrum, in early and mid-July racial violence flared in Baton Rouge in the wake of Alton Sterling’s death and subsequent police shootings.

With this context, the historic significance of the neutral ground – a safe zone where two sides in a conflict were invited to come and lay down their arms – took on a greater and more urgent relevance as we considered the day-to-day lives of the children and young people in our neighborhood.

Our tag line became: “From the playground to the neutral ground.”


PL@Y MLK – Phase One

Our KaBOOM award will enable us to implement Phase One of our long-term plan for PL@Y MLK – to build and deploy three play stations along the MLK Boulevard corridor.

We will build and launch our first UNI cart in early November and work closely with a host partner in the neighborhood to plan and manage implementation. Tulane and the Taylor Center will provide implementation support, volunteers, evaluation, and impact assessment.


PL@Y MLK – Beyond

If Phase 1 is successful, we’ll raise money to build at least two more mobile play stations and partner with additional host organizations in the neighborhood to deploy them along the MLK corridor.

Our end goal is to be able to program a zone of play that comprises the eight blocks from Simon Bolivar to Claiborne Avenues and includes our Thalia Street play space.