Leslie is participating in a year-long working group focused on “learning through play” with practitioners and researchers convened by the Lego Foundation. At a recent meeting, the group discussed creating a large mural in Philadelphia (inspired by artist Candy Chang) to spark conversations about play.

Here at the Uni Project, we like to put good ideas in front of New Yorkers on-the-double, so last week Leslie lugged a chalkboard from our office to our locations in Harlem and Corona, and she invited people to finish the sentence “When I was young, I played…” Kids were all over the blackboard, and it sparked conversations and connected many who had not met before. Some of the games that everyone talked about: “the floor is lava!” and “scuttle,” which a parent explained was played with bottle caps.

This experiment has us thinking about what we can do to help reinvigorate New York City play streets, a tradition which is in decline as recently reported in the New York Times. The Uni has deployed at NYC play streets for many years, but we want to do more. We know there is value in unstructured play and playful learning, and the Uni can help make a place for it.

The Uni at Howard Bennett Playground in Harlem, July 2017:

These girls got into a serious discussion about playing some kind of game:

The Uni at Park of the Americas in Corona, Queens, July 2017:

We're getting a "new" name... Street Lab.

The Uni Project is the work of Street Lab, a nonprofit launched in 2006 in Boston, where we created community-oriented programs for public space. In 2011, we migrated Street Lab to New York City and launched the Uni Project. The Uni began as a single, portable reading room and has since grown into a city-wide initiative offering more than 600 days of pop-up programming in 150+ public spaces across the city. In 2019, we are re-introducing our original name Street Lab to tie all this work together going forward, with much more to come.
For now, details about our programs are available here on the Uni Project web site. Soon, that content will move to www.streetlab.org. Thanks for sticking with us!