P.S. 197 - Project Oasis
(click to enlarge)
An intersection in Harlem
Painting Yankee Stadium & beyond, to the North Pole
Bridge over the Harlem River
Muralist Bryan Collier with student artists
City Volunteer Corp kids learning building skills
Dr. Barlow and Bryan Collier with P.S. 197 kids
'Marcus Garvey Park' first planted by Benadette Cozart of NYC Dept. of Parks. From then on, the children of P.S 197 continued the care and planting of the garden.
Bridge to the east and beyond
Outdoor classroom, performance space and gathering place.
Fifth grader rap group rehearsing on the Apollo stage.

Project Oasis was launched in 1990 by the New York Board of Ed to fund improvements to public school outdoor spaces. In that context, Schoolworks had the opportunity to design and build seven playgrounds sponsored by the Harlem Hospital Injury Prevention Program led by Dr. Barbara Barlow, Chief of Pediatric Surgery and Aissatou Bey-Grecia.

Dr. Barlow's main concern was to reduce injuries by creating safe playgrounds in Harlem. My focus was to make playgrounds that were outdoor extensions of each school's unique curriculum. The partnership created some new ways of looking at outdoor space in schools.

The process included:

- Direct participation of children, parents, teachers, and community groups in the design

- Training and employment of community people in the construction of the playgrounds

- Creating coalitions of city agencies, neighborhood groups and NGO's to solve problems and expedite progress

- Integration of student art and gardening programs into the curriculum of each school and the creation of outdoor classrooms and performance spaces

The concept for our first project at P.S. 197 was to create a small-scale model of the neighborhood, specifically the school’s intersection of 135th St. and fifth Ave., not only recreating recognizable landmarks and institutions, but showing, through murals and gardens made by the students, that their community can extend beyond its boundaries to the ends of the Earth. Looking down fifth you can see Central Park and imagine the Amazon beyond the horizon, while turning northward, Yankee Stadium gives way to the Arctic and the North Pole.

Imagine that!