Click on photo to see the swings in action.
There is a street in Montreal that makes people happy. On that street are 21 swings or 21 Balançoires designed by a group of people called Daily tous les jour who must certainly be geniuses and whom, if I met them, I would certainly like. And, as if swings alone were not enough to bring joy, these swings make music - or rather the swingers make the swings make music. And, the tones and the movement, the strangers and the friends, all come together to make something special happen, even for those just passing by.
I want this for Atlanta. I also want the stairs like piano keys that were installed somewhere in Scandinavia for Volkswagen's Fun Theory Project a few years ago. I want Atlanta to become known as America's most playable city.
Every year, the national non-profit KaBOOM! evaluates cities all over the country in terms of how playful they are. Miraculously, Atlanta has been named a Playful City USA every single year it has been offered. I say "miraculously", because in all honesty, Atlanta is more about sports than it is about play, it is more about adults than it is about children, it is more about business than it is about play. The city is mostly for adults, the streets are totally for adults, and the country as a whole seems to have returned to a day when children should be seen and not heard. Only now, instead of shooing the kids outside to play, they are closed up in their rooms tweeting and Instagraming, SnapChatting and who knows what else.
The other day, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released the 2014 Kids Count Data Book. After reading some of the statistics I'm ready to suggest to my son and daughter-in-law that we move to Vermont with my beautiful grandchildren. I was glad to see that some of the things counted in the data book are getting a tiny bit better, but most are not, and that just isn't right. Georgia could do so much better. For all the hoops we jump through for - and money we pour into the building of - new stadiums, for all the tens of millions of dollars going into moving and restoring the old Cyclorama painting… you just can't tell me that we can't do better job at making this a better city for our children. Sports and history are great, but perhaps not right now when a child's right to play is ignored, when a child's right to a brilliant rich learning environment (especially in those critical early years) is brushed aside. Priorities, man! Priorities!
Play is an important indicator of a healthy childhood environment, but it is just one. Over the next 18 months, ATOP will be researching, fact-finding, and interviewing leaders from all over the world looking for keys to making Atlanta the most Child Friendly City in the United States. And, then we will begin implementing. And, sharing. And, sharing some more. And, then, just like the way the 21 different swings on that street in Montreal come together to make a resonant and beautiful moment in time, we will come together to make a world better for children everywhere. And, maybe, just maybe, Atlanta can lead the way.
Stay tuned and maybe, just maybe. the best is yet to come.