The High Line in NYC, a raised urban park that was formerly an elevated railway, has recently inspired some building ideas and designs for and by children. I can just imagine Carolyn Pratt, the early childhood educator who “invented” the large scale unit blocks in the early 20th century, bringing her young students to explore the High Line. Upon returning to the classroom I am sure they would get right to work, representing their experience of this structure and the surrounding neighborhood through the medium of blocks. (The original High Line was built in the1930’s lifting freight traffic above the street.) It is encouraging to see that exploring the neighborhood and reconstructing it with blocks continues today. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer kindergarten and first grade children have blocks in their classrooms, or, if they do, the time for building is very limited. Research has shown that building with blocks and other three-dimensional material is directly tied to the development of mathematical thinking, scientific investigation and language development.
Check out the “High Line Children’s Work yard Kit,” a set of loose parts for children to build with- on site – at the High Line. Developed by Cas Holman in collaboration with Early Learning Educators and Friends of the High Line, “… the Work yard Kit reflects the High Line’s industrial history and simple, honest materiality.”
“Designed as a custom play feature for the High Line, this collection of wooden planks, wheels, pulleys, “wing bolts” and rope allow children to follow their curiosity while playing. There are no wrong answers, and while the pieces can come together in the form of a structure used to convey buckets or materials, they can also become a giraffe, monster, robot, airplane or just a “thingy”. Here the act of playing and playing and building is the goal, not the finished product. “