Community-driven design isn’t just for adults

The first Green Playces design is complete and will be installed near the Propel Northside school in the Pittsburgh’s Perry South neighborhood.

How do you take a vacant lot and turn it into a creative outdoor classroom?

Step 1: Ask the Kids

For starters, we asked a group of third graders, “what would you do with this?”:

Propel Vacant Lot


These kids dream big, and we ended up with some pretty amazing ideas, like a giant pool party or even a ninja garden.

Step 2: Make it real

Although we don’t have the resources to build a ninja garden, we hope we’ve captured the spirit of the students’ drawings. From talking to the kids, we got a sense that they wanted a space where they could let their creativity run wild!

In this same creative spirit, we held 2 sessions called charrettes. During these charrettes people had a chance to tell us what they’d like to see in the space.

For our 1st charrette we invited 4th graders from Propel Northside to vote on ideas and themes that they would like to see in an outdoor classroom.

Then our resident landscape architect came up with three Design Themes from the students input:

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 11.26.37 AM
Site Analysis and Design Concepts
  • Stage Performance Space
  • Secret Garden/Natural Space
  • Outdoor Learning and Classroom Space.
Step 3: Call in the adults

Next we called in the “adults” (community members, funders and neighborhood leaders) for our 2nd design charrette, which was focused on exterior partners in/and around the Propel School site.  Each participant selected themes/ideas they liked and disliked from the three design themes found above.

After these charrettes, we have plenty of information and inspiration to create a final design concept.

Step 4: Final Design Concept!

Using our internal team of designers, we created a final design concept to unveil to Propel Schools.  To date we have reached out to 65 kids and adults to gather input on the design of the site.



Step 5: Build!

We are in the process of scheduling workdays for the Green Playces build at Propel Northside. Sign up to volunteer below to receive updates.

Want to get involved? Sign up to volunteer with us. 



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