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Soccer games have long dominated recess at P.S. 13’s (Clement C. Moore) blacktop, leaving some children sitting idle on the sidelines. The K-5 school wanted to make sure children uninterested in soccer still engaged in active play. The Active Design in Schools program at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH), along with the Fund for Public Health in New York City (FPHNYC), and Building Healthy Communities, and ArtBridge transformed a previously unused schoolyard space into a colorful, interactive area with ground markings and a wall mural. These enhancements encourage students to play games such as “Red Light, Green Light” and hit a variety of targets with balls.

Opportunities for Activity

Physical activity is important for young people’s health; it helps them maintain strong bones and a healthy weight, and can improve concentration and memory. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that children and adolescents (ages 6-17) get at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, yet many students in New York City do not meet these recommendations. Schools play a pivotal role in determining whether NYC’s children lead active and healthy lives.

Like P.S. 13’s ground markings and interactive wall mural, enhancements that encourage active play do not have to be complicated. From 2015-2017, FPHNYC collaborated with the Health Department’s Active Design program to raise and distribute funds and technical assistance to 74 NYC K-12 schools with support from Astoria Energy, New York State Health Foundation and the CDC. Schools received built environment enhancements that encourage increased physical activity and healthy eating. The enhancements fell under four categories: active recreation, healthy foods and beverages, green spaces and nature, and getting to and from school. Projects included painted markings for games, school gardens, new water fountains and safe routes to and from schools. Overall, these enhancements served over 70,000 residents, including over 40,000 children.

Schools are chosen through an open application process with a focus on sites that largely serve children from low-income families. Projects are developed based on the City’s 2010 Active Design Guidelines and the related Active Design Toolkit for Schools. In addition to strategic fundraising, FPHNYC assists with subcontracting, the distribution of grant funding and reporting back to funders. Demand for this project remains high; the program has received over 200 applications. FPHNYC is actively raising additional funds to distribute to schools. For information about how you can support the Active Design in Schools mini-grant program, contact agoldstein@fphnyc.org.

*This program is supported in part by a grant funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The content of this article is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention of the Department of Health and Human Services.