It Takes a Village to Design Play Everywhere

We’ve spent the past month working an amazing team of collaborators on two proposals for the KaBOOM Play Everywhere challenge.

We’ve been fortunate to partner with KaBOOM twice in the past three years, so when they announced the challenge along with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Target we were excited to think about how we could extend our mission through a few new ideas that we would like to implement in our Central City neighborhood.

The timing of the challenge dovetailed with the second round of our participation in the Fast 48 Design Thinking Boot Camp – a 2-day workshop hosted by the Taylor Center for Design Thinking and Social Innovation at Tulane.

We tasked our 30 workshop participants to help us get creative about how we deepen engagement with our Central City community and expand the network of kids and families that we serve.

Coming out of the workshop we invited Fast48’ers to stay engaged with us while we developed our Challenge concepts.

As a result we had a rock star multi-disciplinary team that came together to ideate and collaborate.

We’ve been on our block now for nearly three years, and we’ve seen and learned a lot, but with outside perspectives we honed in on some key challenges, which served as a jumping off point for framing our proposed solutions.

The community in our neighborhood is hyper local. The families on our block have been there for several generations and though a number of them were displaced by Katrina, many have come back. They represent a deep and highly interconnected web of personal and family relationships and friendships that all unfold within a 5-block radius. Even the housing development at the far end of Thalia Street is like another city for our local PlayBuild kids. We need to deploy more tactical play solutions around the neighborhood for smaller scale activities and to reinforce awareness of PlayBuild as a hub for neighborhood play.

Traffic and street safety risks limit mobility. Because we sit near the intersection of several major traffic arteries – Claiborne Avenue and MLK, traffic and safety are a consideration that prevents kids from crossing neighborhood boundaries.

Even students from Sylvanie Williams College Prep, which sits two blocks from PlayBuild are limited in their ability to come to visit our space because they can’t navigate the treacherous MLK and Claiborne intersection.

On a longer term basis while we think about solutions like Play Streets, for the short term we are thinking about how we can turn the transit zones in our community into play stations.

Churches and Faith-Based Organizations are under-utilized community catalysts. When our Fast48 team walked the streets to do a preliminary needs assesement, they mapped the neighborhood and identified no fewer than 10 churches in our immediate blocks. Each of these churches represents a community of kids and families that we would love to get to know. We are committed to finding ways to connect with these organizations. By deploying our toys and materials in partnership with church youth ministries or tying in with seasonal events and activities, we want to build strong alliances with more Central City church communities.

There’s a treasure chest of building materials in our backyard. Diagonally opposite our Thalia Street play space is the Uptown Recycling Center – a massive repository of scap metal, old tires, and every kind of discarded material imaginable. Two weeks ago we took ourselves on a field trip across the street, and weren’t we were glad we did?! First we met Alex Smith, a Design grad from Loyola who runs the business for his family. Alex not only showed us around and took us on a tour of his secret stash of finds, he also volunteered to jump into our planning process with some great ideas for and help think about how we could start upcycling materials for some future PlayBuild projects.

Massive shout-out of thanks to the extended team and associated organizations that contributed to this effort.

From our (extended) F48/Taylor Center krewe:

Antonio Alonzo – marketing & communications, IDIYA maker space (photography)

Maille Faughnan – PhD Candidate, Payson School for Global Development, Taylor Center for Design Thinking (concept review)

Kristen Hill – Candidate, M Arch, Tulane School of Architecture (renderings, and visuals

Mallory LaGrone – Elementary School Teacher (concept write-ups)

Lisa Paterson – Tulane School of Public Health (concept write-ups)

Marcella del Signore – Professor, Tulane School of Architecture (concept review)

Jordan Stewart – Tulane School of Public Health (concept review)

Partnering Organization Stakeholders

Heidi Schmalbach, New Orleans Arts Council

Chelsea Hylton, Project Peaceful Warriors

Alexander Smith, Manager, Uptown Recycling

PlayBuild Network

Naomi Doerner, Transportation Planner, Member, PlayBuild Board of Directors

Jackie InghlefieldPlayBuild parent & visual artist

Also big thanks to the Blue House for giving us a space to gather and work!

Summer Instructors Wanted



PlayBuild’s mission is to transform under-utilized urban spaces into safe, fun environments for kids to learn about design.

For more background, please visit PlayBuild’s website at


PlayBuild is seeking energetic, experienced and highly capable program instructors to deliver our unique design curriculum in a fun summer camp environment to kids ages 4-12.  The majority of summer camp will take place outdoors at 2828 Thalia Street, our flagship play space located in Central City.  Instructors will lead 15-20 PlayBuilders in interactive design, architectural, engineering, and construction play activities.  The right candidate will create a fun, safe, hands-on learning experience for PlayBuild campers, encouraging them to explore, play and build using the many different toys and materials available at our Thalia Street site.


PlayBuild is looking for instructors to support our summer activities throughout the months of June and July.   Instructors will participate in a short training module prior to any on-site instruction.  Activities will be scheduled between 8 am and 5:30 pm Mondays through Fridays.  


This is a PAID position; hourly rate subject to negotiation based on relevant experience and qualifications


The Program Instructor’s role is to lead lessons and activities using PlayBuild’s curriculum, to manage the safety and supervision of campers, and to assist with general classroom operations at our Thalia Street location.

Lessons and Curriculum

Why are shotgun houses built the way they are? How can we make the straw and stick houses stronger for the Little Pigs? How do we make our neighborhoods more kid-friendly? These are just some of the questions that PlayBuilders will be answering this summer.

PlayBuilders learn about the world around them and how they can become engaged in community change, preservation and design through fun and interactive enrichment activities.

Each PlayBuild lesson is delivered in 3 parts: 

Traditional Classroom- a time for reading, critical thinking and group discussion

Guided Play- a time for guided enrichment activities in the form of an art or building project that reinforces the traditional lesson 

Free Play- the finale that lets PlayBuilders tinker, create, innovate, explore and problem-solve with limited adult interference

Safety and Supervision

PlayBuild operates an open air classroom in an urban environment.  We are located in a residential neighborhood just off the Claiborne corridor.  Our setting is unique, and we need to ensure that all adults on-site have the preparation and training necessary to confront a variety of situations as they arise.  We thoroughly orient all adult supervisors both to our space and our surroundings to ensure  suitability and readiness for monitoring and supervising our campers.

Classroom Set-Up, Lesson Prep

In preparation for hosting students on-site, the Program Instructor will assist with set-up and break-down of the playground equipment much of which is large-scale and modular and does require time and some physical activity.  Tasks involve moving of bins and carts of equipment, books, blocks and cubes.


Qualified candidates will have evidenced strong interest in PlayBuild’s mission through past experience working in community development, youth development, arts education, or other relevant fields. 

The ideal candidate will have hands-on experience working with and supervising students under the age of 10 in a classroom, recreational, or camp setting.  Note that PlayBuild’s activities take place outside during the summer.  Instructors should be prepared for summer temperatures and to the variability of New Orleans summer weather.  In the case of extreme inclement weather (thunderstorms and flooding) activities will be moved to an alternate location.

PlayBuild is committed to providing a safe space for kids and families.  Qualified candidates will agree to submit to a criminal background check and to participate in a one-hour online Play Associate training session for specific instruction in the use of PlayBuild’s Imagination Playground equipment.   PlayBuild will require ALL new Instructors to attend on-site training prior to beginning work.

If you are interested in working with PlayBuild, please contact: subject line:  SUMMER CAMP PROGRAM INSTRUCTOR.  Please share your availability for full and part-time work during the months of June and July.  If you are available part-time please let us know your days and hours of availability.

GiveNOLA Wrap-Up + Summer @ PlayBuild

We’re excited to announce that we closed out this year’s GiveNOLA just above our goal with combined donations and pledge amounts totaling $25,356. Thanks for everyone for bearing with us through the process.

To all who donated, you have made a massive and immediate contribution, and we’re now moving forward full-steam ahead with our plans for the summer.

We’ve got a mix of activities from Free Play Sessions for younger PlayBuilders in June to our enrollment-based 2-Week Design Discovery Program in July. We’re also thrilled to be teaming up with FirstLine Schools and YEP, two ongoing partners of PlayBuild as a program partner to enable us to reach a wider audience of kids.

Here’s the scoop!

First Up: WE’RE HIRING Funding and support that you provided through your GiveNOLA contributions has enabled us to recruit instructors for our summer activities.

Our Camp Instructor job description will be posted shortly. You can also email to request a copy of the description.

June @ Thalia Street

Breakfast Building Series- FREE: Join us at Thalia Street for morning drop-in camp sessions from 8:30 – noon. Parents are invited to bring PlayBuilders aged 4-8 for morning building sessions at Thalia Street.

Dates: June 7th – July 1st

July @ Thalia Street

Design Discovery NOLA- $$; Limited enrollment of 15 students; with some scholarship slots available: Design Discovery NOLA is PlayBuild’s stand-alone camp. Hosted at our space on 2828 Thalia the two-week program will immerse PlayBuilders Multiple cultural influences contribute to the unique design history of New Orleans. Beyond architecture we will look at the City’s evolution and the multiple colorful strands that contribute to New Orleans rich tapestry.

Dates: July 18th– 29th
Morning sessions: 8 am – noon
Afternoon sessions: 1 pm – 5 pm

We are currently inviting pre-registrations from interested families and parents from our mailing list. Registration for Design Discovery NOLA will officially open on June 1st.

camp photoSummer Camp Program Partnerships

Summer Camp X: Designing the Future | New Orleans 2030 We’re thrilled to partner with FirstLine to bring Designing The Future: New Orleans 2030. Timed to coincide with the process of the City of New Orleans’ Master Plan revision, Summer Camp X students will get a window into the live process of City Planning. With a one-week crash course in City Planning followed by a three-week Design Sprint students will learn planning basics and then develop a set of recommendations to be integrated into the public participation process and presented to the CPC.

Dates: June 7th – June 29th

Youth Empowerment Project: We are excited to partner with Youth Empowerment Project to provide open play sessions and activities to their summer campers. Sessions will take place on OC Haley and at PlayBuild’s 2828 Thalia Street location and will feature PlayBuild activities and lessons built around the Imagination Playground and the Rig-a-ma-Jig.

Dates: June 7th – July 8th


GiveNOLA 2016 Update

From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU for sticking with us through the roller coaster ride that we’ve been on over the past 72 hours!

What happened?

This year, the GiveNOLA website started experiencing technical difficulties around 9 am Tuesday.  All in all, our GiveNOLA donation page was down for 10+ hours.

Thank you for an INCREDIBLE show of support!

In the past 24 hours with confirmation emails and pledges coming in from friends and family, we are now thrilled to report that

we are just over the $20,000 mark with gifts from 70 individuals!!!!

Please note that we are still processing information manually, and the final GiveNOLA transaction report is still not accessible.   If you made a donation, but have not received an email confirmation from PlayBuild please reach out immediately at

Help us cross the finish line!

Countdown FB graphics - Sitll have time (1200x 1200)

Our goal for this year’s GiveNOLA was $25,000.  Miraculously and thanks to all of you, it is now within reach!

With only $5,000 to go, we are keeping the flame alive until the end of today.  Point your browser at before 5 pm and your contribution will still count towards our GiveNOLA total.

Donor List

Thank you to the following donors who have confirmed their gifts since our last count on Wednesday:

Michelle & Mike Fries
Jack Harris
Carline Watson
Jamie Harris
Eileen Cannon
Gillian Gutenberg
Jennifer Barnes
David McPherson
Chanel Fischette
Tricia Nelson
Susan Champion
Leslie Davol
Katherine McKitterick
Lauren Liao
Caroline Wong
Lauren Bierbaum
Priscell Prillman
Kaatherine Stebbins McCaffrey
Douglas Thomas
Jackie DeHuff
Robert DeHuff
Karla Melendez
Veronica Chambers
Jolene Bastas
Jason Marsalis
Debroah Glupczynski
Shauna Sampson
Amy Hill
Sunah Park
Sherri McConnell
Kristen Sullivan
Matt Ouimets
Kevin Dehuff
Dennis Aeling