play / 2014

Together We Play L.A.!

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Inclusion Matters By Shane's Inspiration

@ShanesPlay + 3000 L.A. Children + 40 L.A. Schools + 30 L.A. Parks + All Ages & Abilities = Together We Play LA!

Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

Together We Play L.A.! will unite the Los Angeles community through 50 play-based events in schools and parks, creating common ground.

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • South LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South Bay
  • Westside

What is your idea/project in more detail?

At Shane’s Inspiration, we believe full equality in play is essential, not optional. That is why our commitment is to provide park access and social inclusion for all individuals. Together We Play L.A.!, will break down the barriers that divide us through an intergenerational play initiative, in partnership with schools and parks throughout Los Angeles County! Hosting 50 events in twelve months – 40 educational school based and 10 community based – Shane’s Inspiration will connect a vastly diverse group of Angelenos against the backdrop of fully inclusive playgrounds, promoting vibrant park usage across the city. The initiative will conclude with a community celebration at a Nickelodeon “Worldwide Day of Play” event in Griffith Park.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

Play as a Uniting Force: The school based aspect of the Together We Play L.A.! initiative will directly impact over 3,000 children in over 50 schools. Our children of today will be our leaders of tomorrow in 2050. We need future leaders that can see beyond our differences, and who are able to unite their communities by building common ground. To that end, Shane’s Inspiration will unite approximately 1000 children with disabilities with 2,000 typically developing children for a day of play on an inclusive playground over a series of 40 field trips. These children will have an opportunity to dissolve their misconceptions, find their similarities, and discover respect, friendship and understanding. This experiential play opportunity will be combined with pre and post educational presentations that explore the barriers that divide us based on common misconceptions. The uniting principals learned through this process can then be applied across race, ability and cultural divides. This aspect of the initiative will run concurrent with the school year, September through June.

Building Common Ground®: The community events will be held on the last Saturday of the month and will alternate locations throughout Los Angeles. Each event will be held at a Shane’s Inspiration inclusive playground location. These events will draw individuals, families, and children of all abilities and will feature “play artisans” that will create interactive play presentations that promote play in unique and inspiring ways. Each event will have a theme and feature the diverse ways in which Angelenos play such as Art, Magic, Sports, Music, etc. One month, renowned wheelchair artist, Tommy Hollenstein will teach the art of painting with wheels. Community members will bring their bicycles, scooters, roller blades or wheelchairs and discover play through art. Water sports for people of all abilities can be featured at Lake Balboa, next to our inclusive playground. Professional, Olympic and Paralympic athletes will present their triumphant stories and engage community members in their sport of choice.

The initiative will culminate in Griffith Park at the Shane’s Inspiration flagship playground in conjunction with a Nickelodeon Worldwide Day of Play! This event will feature performances of prominent play artisans, a resource fair of organizations that promote play in L.A., and a Walk n’ Roll 5K event that will secure the funding to support the initiative’s on-going success.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to PLAY today? In 2050?

“By playing with my buddy, I learned that I can open myself up to other people who may be different than I am…that I should try harder to get to know people because we are all people and we should give each other a chance.” Jenny, age 13, Education Program Participant

The Together We Play L.A.! initiative will dissolve the barriers that divide us by bringing individuals and communities together through play. Shane’s Inspiration has been dedicated to making L.A. the best place to play since 1998 through the creation of the first fully inclusive playground in Griffith Park, to the opening of our 37th Los Angeles playground in Sun Valley. This initiative would build on our prior success in this area in the following ways:

*Developing 5 new community driven conceptual designs for 5 future inclusive playgrounds and parks.

*Including access to play for ALL!

*Bringing 3000 children of all abilities together through play and education to replace damaging misconceptions about one another with friendship and understanding.

  • Showcasing interactive and innovative ways in which communities can come together through play.

  • Promoting park usage through community based play programs that broaden our perspective of one another.

We are only as resilient as we are united. Los Angeles prides itself on our diversity. However, it is often that diversity that keeps us apart. Play is the great equalizer, connecting people through common ground and creating opportunities to discover our similarities, instead of our differences. We bully, fight, and divide because we are afraid, because we feel we are distinctly different. By discovering our commonalities, we are able to weave a more inclusive fabric across our great city. Evan Beachy, former teacher at New Roads Elementary says, “Working with Shane’s Inspiration was just that; an inspirational experience for myself and my students. To see their attitudes change from fear, to understanding, to compassion, to friendship was truly something special.”

By 2050, we will be facing many challenges that will only be surmountable through a strongly united community. The seeds for that unity will be planted in part through the Together We Play L.A.! initiative that will redefine the way we play together, redefine our perspectives about one another and strengthen our ties that bind. Together we can face the challenges that await us. Together we can build a resilient tomorrow. One play connection at a time.

Whom will your project benefit?

The Together We Play L.A.! initiative will directly impact 3,000 children, approximately 1,000 of these children will have some form of disability. Most of the children we reach are between the ages of 1 and 13 and come from a variety of socio-economic circumstances. Within our school-based programs, over 80% of the schools we serve are classified as Title I, which is an indicator of poverty among the student population. Each student that participates in the school program will take home a family guide on inclusion, providing the potential to reach an additional 5,000+ family members. This guide will be printed in English and Spanish.

We estimate an additional 2,500 individuals will be directly impacted by the community based monthly programming. We will utilize our base of 37 inclusive playgrounds throughout the city of Los Angeles in some of the most under served and at risk communities, promoting play and recreational usage at local parks. The goal is to inform the communities that these parks, inclusive playgrounds and programs are available to the families to help promote and engage on-going community usage beyond the one year goal.

We will also utilize print, radio, television, and social media avenues to promote this initiative, raising a broader understanding of the importance of dissolving the barriers that divide us and the opportunities to connect.

On a broader impact scale, Los Angeles is currently a shining example for other communities of how to create play environments that unite the whole of the community. Shane’s Inspiration and the City of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department travel nationally and internationally to promote the replication of these playgrounds and programs to a global audience. The 37 playgrounds developed in Los Angeles have sparked a world wide movement in inclusive play, generating Shane’s Inspiration projects in 15 states, as well as in Mexico, Ecuador, Israel and four in conjunction with the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics in Canada and Russia. As members of the Clinton Global Initiative, Shane’s Inspiration is participating in conversations with the Rockefeller Resilient Cities initiative regarding the importance of inclusive play environments as they pertain to city resiliency. The Together We Play L.A.! initiative will provide another important opportunity for Los Angeles to lead the way in play - today - tomorrow - into 2050 and beyond!

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

Shane’s Inspiration owes the success of our programs in great part to the collaborative partners that we have been fortunate enough to have had through the years. Shane’s Inspiration has always approached partnership with a win/win strategy which has yielded strong, loyal and long lasting relationships. We will work collaboratively with many partners on this initiative but will rely heavily on two key partnerships, one of which is the City of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department. From the first project which opened in 2000, to the 30th and beyond, this partnership is at the foundation of the organization’s success. This department will work very closely with Shane’s Inspiration to support the success of our goals as all 50 events will take place at parks throughout the City of Los Angeles. The parks are managed and maintained by City staff so the contribution of this department will be substantial.

The other key to success of this project will be our partnership with schools. We have over 150 Los Angeles schools from which to draw from for the school aspect of the initiative. The programs we will offer to the schools will be free of charge and have been proven to be of substantial educational value to the students. We have been partnering with local schools for over 10 years and currently have a waiting list of schools who would like to participate in our programming opportunities.

Outreach and Community Event partners of Shane’s Inspiration programs include the Exceptional Children’s Foundation; Regional Centers; Disney; Wells Fargo Capital Finance; Seesaw Studios; Kiwanis; Newman Grace Inc.

Promoting this initiative will be key and our partners at Newman Grace Publishing will be featuring each step of this initiative in the Inspiring Play Magazine - They will also use Google Ad Words to get the word out.

The three factors that are critical to the success of our proposed collaboration are:

Advanced planning with key partners; Consistent and clear communication between all project partners; Delivering on proposed goals and commitments.

We have a track record of success in these areas with our partners which provides a strong foundation for the roll out and successful implementation of this initiative. As with any new initiative, we anticipate hurdles as we navigate somewhat unfamiliar territory. Our confidence lies in the strength of our partnership history in overcoming obstacles.

How will your project impact the LA2050 “Play” metrics?

  • Access to open space and park facilities
  • Per capita crime rates
  • Percentage of residents that feel safe in their neighborhoods
  • Residents within 1⁄4 mile of a park (Dream Metric)
  • Number of residents with easy access to a “vibrant” park (Dream Metric)
  • Number of parks with intergenerational play opportunities (Dream Metric)
  • Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play (Dream Metric)
  • Lowering obesity rates through active engagement opportunities

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Access to open space and park facilities: Together We Play L.A.! will utilize Shane’s Inspiration’s inclusive playgrounds throughout Los Angeles for all 50 events. There are currently 37 inclusive playgrounds to choose from which will serve a diverse L.A. community.

Per Capita Crime Rates: “Urban parks and playgrounds have many benefits. They fill the need for exercise, play, and contact with nature. They encourage residents to interact with one another and build “social capital,” the connections, trust, and sense of community investment that make neighborhoods work. Parks can increase the value of nearby homes, and if they’re safe and well maintained, they reduce crime in the area.”

Percentage of residents that feel safe in their neighborhoods: There will be five new community driven conceptual playground designs created through this initiative for new playgrounds to be built in L.A. Because these designs and projects are community driven, the stakeholders work hard to protect their investment of time, creativity and resources by ensuring that the children and families are safe from crime and violence. An increase in family attendance at parks has a direct effect on the decrease in crime, particularly when those families have been directly involved as community leaders in the park development.

Residents within 1/4 mile of the Park: This initiative will target community members that live within a close proximity to the park locations where the events will take place. Again, the more convenient the location, the higher likelihood of increased attendance and follow up usage.

Access to Vibrant Parks: Shane’s Inspiration’s goal is to create an inclusive playground within reach of every community. Our partnership with the City of Los Angeles will allow us to achieve this goal as we continually identify new park locations. This initiative will create five additional community driven designs that will provide five new communities with future access to a vibrant park.

Intergenerational Play: The inclusive playground designs take into account people of all ages and abilities. As one grandfather with a disability, said, “I missed playing in the park with my children. Because Shane’s Inspiration builds to the spirit of the ADA law instead of the letter, I won’t miss playing with my grandchildren.”

Informal Spaces:The community events will feature informal play opportunities for all, reinventing our perception and utilization of parks

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

“It is not a question of patronizing philanthropy towards disabled people. It is not for them to adapt to the dominant and dominating world of the so-called non-disabled. It is for us to adapt our understanding of a common humanity; to learn of the richness of how human life is diverse; to recognize the presence of disability in our human midst as an enrichment of our diversity.” Nelson Mandela

School Program: We will routinely measure attitudinal shifts in students via pre- and post-field trip written assessments, both of which typically will occur within one week’s time.

Prior to their field trips, students will be given a writing exercise that explores their thoughts on disabilities. Often, students will communicate that they are: fearful of people in wheelchairs; sad and believe people with disabilities are unable to live a fulfilling life; afraid of touching people with disabilities because they are contagious; and afraid of being hurt by them.

After experiencing the interactive field trip, students will be given an additional writing exercise that explores their perceptions after having been partnered with a child with a disability for a day of play. Written assessments after the field trips have revealed a major shift in perception. It is common to see students like Colin, a 4th grader in West Los Angeles, express the following shift in awareness: Prior to the Field Trip: “When I see someone with a disability I feel sad and a little freaked out that they are like that.” After the Field Trip: “After going on my field trip, I would want others to know that you shouldn’t be scared of someone who is disabled.” In one classroom of 5th graders, the words sad and bad were repeated 90 times in their written assessments. After their field trip, those same words were used only 19 times.

Assessments will be given to the educators participating in the program to gauge the educational value and impact of the program from their perspective.

Community attendance and engagement will be measured at each event, with attendees participating in video interviews regarding their perceptions of the program, their views on play as a vehicle to connect people and their ideas on promoting play in L.A.

Ultimately, our goal is to create an extraordinary year of play that can be presented to Nickelodeon for consideration as a featured segment in their Worldwide Day of Play coverage, positioning Los Angeles as a leader in intergenerational, inclusive play!

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

DANGEROUS MISCONCEPTIONS DIVIDE US: When Shane’s Inspiration opened the first playground in 2000, we were certain of the impact it would have on children with disabilities, most of whom would be playing in a playground for the very first time since traditionally designed playgrounds left them sitting on the sidelines. But what we didn’t anticipate was the profound opportunity it would present to impact the perceptions of typically developing children and adults who may have never had the opportunity to know someone with a disability. We were told that children with disabilities were violent, contagious and didn’t need to or weren’t able to play. We realized the opportunity to bridge this divide and eliminate these harmful misconceptions was great and the programming aspect of our mission was born. The Together We Play L.A.! initiative will help us take this mission to a broader audience and include utilizing play as a bridge to dissolve barriers between races, cultures and generations.

ACCESSIBLE DOES NOT MEAN INCLUSIVE: The other important lesson we learned that has informed our initiative is that it isn’t enough to simply design and build a fully inclusive play environment and expect it to immediately draw the intended diverse demographics. When we opened our first playground in 2000, it was met with rave reviews! According to the City of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department, this playground is used three times as heavily as other playgrounds in the city. But what we realized was that it was mostly utilized by typically developing children. In order for us to create a true inclusive environment that drew a diverse usage population, programming would need to be created and implemented that accomplished the following: Providing a place where parents of children with disabilities could feel that their child was emotionally safe; Creating an environment of safe and age appropriate exploration for typically developing children regarding disabilities; Providing transportation since the schools often do not have a budget that provides for accessible bus transportation for field trips. Once this kind of programming is in place, the playground can be transformed into an outdoor classroom through the implementation of educational programs that bridge the gap between these diverse populations.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

Implementing the Together We Play L.A.! initiative in the next 12 months is achievable because Shane’s Inspiration will develop this project on the strong foundation of partnerships and programs that have been created over the last 16 years. By combining the resources generously provided by LA 2050 with these three key component partnerships: Parks; Schools; and Community; we feel confident that the initiative would be a great success.

  1. Parks. Shane’s Inspiration has designed and developed 37 inclusive playgrounds in the County of Los Angeles, 30 of which were built in partnership with the City of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department. Given this partnership, the city holds the distinction of being the most playable city in the world for people with disabilities, since these unique playgrounds are designed with a multigenerational approach to access. These playgrounds have won the “Best Playground Award” from L.A. Magazine, as well as Nickelodeon’s Parent’s Pick for Best Playground. All 50 events will utilize a Shane’s Inspiration, fully inclusive playground in a vibrant park community. Therefore, the locations for the play aspect of the initiative have been created and identified.

  2. Schools: Shane’s Inspiration has partnered with over 150 schools in the Los Angeles community since 2002. In 2013, LAUSD partnered with Shane’s Inspiration to implement educational programming, as well as a professional development program that trains educators on creating inclusion on school campuses through play. The school partnerships necessary for the success of this initiative are in place.

  3. Community Outreach. Shane’s Inspiration has established an extensive Community Outreach program in order to promote the initiative events to the public. We plan on utilizing these existing outreach mechanisms to promote the Together We Play L.A.! initiative to a large and diverse audience. These mechanisms include but are not limited to: schools; non-profit partners; regional centers; Best Start community partners; City of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Dept.; City Councilmembers; newsletters; newspaper and radio partners; all means of social media; My Play Club families.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

#1 - Outreach: Shane’s Inspiration anticipates outreach and engagement as a challenging opportunity for the community event aspect of this initiative. Los Angeles is a vast landscape comprised of thousands of communities. Drawing participation from cross sectors is often not easy. To overcome this challenge, we will once again rely heavily on our existing outreach mechanisms, partners, and advocates to help promote interest in the community events. We will also begin promoting the calendar of events far in advance in an effort to secure the dates in the community members’ schedules. We will send out “Save The Date” alerts in substantial time prior to the events, as well as reminders a few days in advance. We will also get the events listed on several high traffic community calendar sites to help promote to a wider audience. We will engage the high profile supporters of Shane’s Inspiration in social media outreach to their followers, creating an endorsement of sorts which will help to increase interest and attendance. We will have an RSVP opportunity so that we can gauge interest, informing the need to increase outreach in advance if necessary.

#2 - Competing for an L.A. Audience – One of the wonderful aspects of Los Angeles is how culturally rich it is, providing Angelenos with multiple offerings on any given day. In this regard, any community event that you plan has to be competitively designed from an impact and entertainment value perspective. To that end, we will rely on our substantial entertainment related support base. We have been fortunate to have participation at prior events from representatives from the sports, film, television, music and arts world. Our goal is to have at least one high profile individual at each event, helping to garner attendance. Once in attendance, we are confident that our programming will offer an impactful, perception changing day for all involved.

#3 Creating a successful initiative that will continue to impact the community beyond its initial launch. To effectively accomplish this, it will require considerable stakeholder involvement strategies. The communities will not only need to engage, but will also need to be instrumental in the development and implementation of this initiative. If the community members become key players, it will create a sense of pride, ownership and accomplishment. In this regard we will be creating the larger “team” necessary to ensure on-going success.

What resources does your project need?

  • Network/relationship support
  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Community outreach
  • Quality improvement research