Health Department’s Active Design Program Encourages Physical Activity in Schools

Active Design in Schools projects included interactive indoor and outdoor murals and play spaces

Eleven schools took part this year, reaching nearly 7,000 students in grades K-12;
public schools can apply now to be considered for next year’s program

Active Design
Children at play on the Life Size Board Game, an Active Design in Schools project painted by Creative Art Works, at P.S. 123 Suydam in Brooklyn.

September 17, 2018 – The Health Department today announced the completion of the 2018 Active Design in Schools program to promote physical activity for children. This year, the program created interactive art installations in 11 public schools across the city, reaching nearly 7,000 students in grades K-12.These projects included interactive indoor and outdoor murals and play spaces.

Local arts organizations – ArtBridge in Queens; Casita Maria in the Bronx; Creative Art Works in Brooklyn; Groundswell in Staten Island; and the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling in Manhattan – worked closely with students to design and install the projects. The selection committee prioritized applications from schools with high need, dedication to improving health equity, and an interest in promoting physical activity. Ten schools were funded by the Health Department, and one school was funded by the Mayor’s Building Healthy Communities initiative. Since 2015, the Active Design in Schools program has funded enhancements in 83 K-12 public schools, reaching over 40,000 students.Public schools can apply now to be considered for next year’s program.

“Active Design in Schools gets kids moving, which is important for their physical and mental health,” said Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “This program is able to turn a boring parking lot into an engaging place to play.”

“When our kids are active and establish healthy habits, they become better learners and succeed both in and out of the classroom,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “I thank the NYC Health Department for their partnership and shared commitment to serving the whole child and establishing a culture of wellness in every school.”

Active Design
Children playing with the Healthy Matching Game mural, an Active Design in Schools project painted by Casita Maria, at P.S. 55 Benjamin Franklin in the Bronx.

Children and adolescents ages 6 to 17 years should have 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day. Play, or any spontaneous activity, has many benefits for children, including improved attention, competence and motivation in the classroom. Physically active play has the additional benefit of boosting healthy bone development and muscle development; reducing the risk of obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases; and providing emotional and mental health benefits, including reduced feelings of depression and anxiety.

“Play. Recess. Breaks in the day. All these things improve academic performance. That is not my opinion, that's what science tells us,” said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo. “I’m pleased to see the completion of the Groundswell play space at P.S. 59 and encourage other Staten Island schools to apply for this program for next year.”

“The Active Design in Schools program will help children in 11 schools embrace physical activity while having fun with their friends,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. "I commend the efforts of our City's Department of Health for partnering with local organizations to create fun and engaging play spaces that these young children can benefit from, especially in underserved communities across our City.”  

“With rates of chronic conditions like childhood obesity and pediatric diabetes on the rise, it’s critical that children engage in healthy physical activity every day. The Active Design in Schools program will help promote better physical and mental health among the youngest New Yorkers,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee.

Active Design
“Wall Games,” an interactive mural painted by ArtBridge as part of the Active Design in Schools program, at P.S. 13 Clemente Moore in Queens.

“We were thrilled to partner with the Health Department, which once again demonstrates that it's at the forefront of utilizing innovative mechanisms to improve health outcomes. And we were also thrilled to work with an incredibly engaged group of students – they actively guided our design process, which resulted in a mural that the entire school now enjoys interacting with every day,” said Stephen Pierson, Executive Director of ArtBridge.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to utilize innovative mural designs, which included interactive elements such as touch games and a walking meditation labyrinth,” said Gail Heidel, Director of Creative Arts Programs at Casita Maria.

“It was exciting to see young people take ownership over the well-being of their community by designing murals that can be engaged with in multiple ways by a variety of ages. The students we worked with were thoughtful, creative and caring. Creating murals with and for them was a joyful experience,” said Brian Ricklin, Executive Director of Creative Art Works.

The following projects were completed through the 2018 Active Design in Schools program:

School Borough Project Arts Organization
P.S. 55 Benjamin Franklin Bronx Indoor mural Casita Maria
P.S. 205 Fiorello LaGuardia Bronx Indoor mural Casita Maria
P.S. 242 Mott Hall V Bronx Play space Casita Maria
P.S. 137 Rachel Jean Mitchell Brooklyn Indoor mural Creative Art Works
P.S. 297 Abraham Stockton Brooklyn Outdoor mural Creative Art Works
P.S. 123 Suydam Brooklyn Play space Creative Art Works
P.S. 13 Clemente Moore Queens Outdoor mural ArtBridge
M.S. 328 Community Math and Science Prep Manhattan Indoor mural Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling (SHCMAS)
P.S. 83 Luis Munoz Rivera Manhattan Play space SHCMAS
P.S. 1 Alfred E. Smith Manhattan Play space SHCMAS
P.S. 59 Harbor View Staten Island Play space Groundswell

Last June, the Health Department released the Active Design Playbook for Early Childhood Settings, a guide for early child care and education providers to increase physically active play and learning.

For additional information, search for “Active Design” on or email



MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Stephanie Buhle, (347) 396-4177