P.S. 194 - Project Oasis
(click to enlarge)
Pyramid and bridges to the New World
"Culture and Dance" mural
The poem

"A Rock, A River, A Tree Hosts to species long since departed."

So begins a poem recited by Maya Angelou at the inauguration of Bill Clinton which is the subject of the playground at P.S. 194. The poem goes on to spin a metaphor for the history of life on Earth, the rise of different cultures whose descendants migrated to a new land - in chains, fleeing injustice, or seeking a new future - culminating in the establishment of America - "the Rock, the River, the Tree, your country".

By far the most esoteric of the Oasis Projects, the playground tried to embody the school's "multi-culturalism and the arts" curriculum while, providing a place to have fun at recess. I think it's a stretch to assume that kids would be ruminating on the development of civilization while climbing a pyramid play structure. However, when a 6th grade class left behind hieroglyphic wall paintings on the inside of the structure, they also left the possibility that children in the future would stop and wonder what they meant. Just the idea that ideas are everywhere justifies the attempt to inject substance into play, especially in schools. Where else should discovery take place?

Teenagers hired by the Rheedlen Foundation (now the Harlem Children's Zone), which ran P.S. 194's after-school program, learned carpentry skills and provided the labor for this project.