From Next City
By Mia Jackson
Philadelphia resident and Temple University professor Kathy Hirsh-Pasek was walking through the streets of her hometown and asked herself: Why does a sidewalk have to be a sidewalk? And a bench, a bench? In short, she thought: “What if we could create whole communities that looked really inviting for families and helped children get learning opportunities outside the school walls by reimagining public spaces as the new public squares?”
In 2015, she and a student of hers wrote a one-paragraph proposal about reinventing public spaces with learning opportunities for a city competition and to their surprise, were the only non-architects named finalists.
Since then, Hirsh-Pasek, a professor of psychology, co-founded Playful Learning Landscapes with University of Delaware professor, Roberta Golinkoff, to re-envision Philadelphia for its youngest city-dwellers. The team has successfully converted ordinary sites into playful learning spaces for communities across the city that are rooted in early childhood education research and community engagement. Everyday public spaces have transformed into miniature public squares, human-sized board games have taken over sidewalks, and bus stops have metamorphosed into moveable puzzles meshed with community history.