At the Department of Play, we're interested in play, invention, youth participation, action research, gaming, mapping, youth organizing, civic engagement, community media, grassroots change, and more. Here's a few related projects @ MIT, interesting conferences in these fields, and interesting related organizations and initiatives around the world.

Related Projects

The Education Arcade (
  • "The Education Arcade (TEA) explores games that promote learning through authentic and engaging play. TEA's research and development projects focus both on the learning that naturally occurs in popular commercial games, and on the design of games that more vigorously address the educational needs of players."
  • Directed by Prof. Eric Klopfer, from the MIT Teacher Education Program (

Arte Rio - (

  • An 2010 IDEAS Competition team project - A group of students from Harvard and MIT developing a summer 2010 project in Rio de Janeiro involving under-served youth, digital communication and local and global resources. Through innovative uses of existing technology, ArteRio inspires young people in Rio de Janeiro to take constructive ownership of their future by connecting them with local and global resources to design and implement creative projects with community benefits. (Kate Balug)

Mental Mapping

  • How can urban planners use their mapping skills and knowledge in a way that is accessible, relevant, and valued by the very communities they strive to improve? = 11 x 17 self-addressed map (John Arroyo's MCP '10 Thesis)

Camera for the Invisible

  • Like a regular camera, the camera for the invisible has lenses, film, and viewfinders, but they do not function as we would normally expect. There are a collection of lenses for taking “pictures” of wind, temperature, carbon dioxide (C02), electrical conductance, & sound (loudness). Each of these “lenses” is actually a sensor, but it looks and feels like a lens, which snaps onto the camera body in the front. p173-silver.pdf (Jay Silver)

RapidFTR (

  • RapidFTR helps aid workers collect, sort and share photographs and information about children in emergency situations so they can be registered for care services and reunited with their families. A team of ITP students dreamed up and designed the system and are now working with UNICEF and volunteer developers from ThoughtWorks and around the world to build and deploy the system.

Interesting Conferences

Child in the City conference (

  • "The Child in the City conference 2010 aims at encouraging cities all over Europe to create a child friendly public space. Since 2002 this conference has been organised successfully every other year"

Interaction Design and Children Conference (IDC -

  • "As in previous editions of IDC, the general goals of the 2010 conference will be to better understand children's needs, and how to design for them, by presenting and discussing the most innovative research in the field of interaction design for children, by exhibiting the most recent developments in design and design methodologies, and by gathering the leading minds in the field of interaction design for children."

The Sandbox Summit (

  • "First there were blocks. Then there was LEGO. Now there are apps. Kids today move seamlessly through multiple dimensions in their pursuit of fun. Today's tech play will all-too-soon become tomorrow's traditional play. What impact do emerging media platforms have on how play evolves? What role do young players have in shaping their playthings? Can a Wii teach playground rules? Is an ebook a phonics friend or foe? Is an avatar real? Come hear what the innovators in children's media, books, toys, virtual worlds, and education predict are the new playrooms for 21st century literacy. Step into the revolutionary world of kids' play. And get a grip on the future of fun."

Interesting Organizations and Initiatives

CEEDS for Change (

  • "The Center for Environment Education and Design Studies (CEEDS) brings together a culturally diverse, interdisciplinary group of faculty and students to enhance learning and community well-being through participatory research and design with K-12 schools, government agencies, and grassroots organizations."
  • Interesting research on methods and programs that foster youth participation

Child Friendly Cities (

  • "The purpose of the [UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre's] Child Friendly Cities Research Initiative is to increase awareness of children’s rights at sub-national levels – mainly municipal administrations but also communities in different settings– and to improve their capacity to assess, monitor and provide an understanding of their “child friendliness” towards better policies and programmes for children."
  • It is developing a package of participatory tools including rights-based indicators, which will contribute to expanding the breadth and quality of data on children’s conditions.

Child Health and Social Ecology (CHASE) project at Harvard (

  • An international program of research at Harvard University devoted to studies of child well-being. CHASE is using a variety of scientific designs in pursuit of its work, ranging from large scale epidemiological surveys to randomized field trials. The current portfolio includes the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, the Ecology of AIDS and Mental Health in Tanzania, and other studies on democratization and children in Costa Rica.

Childinfo (

  • "This website contains UNICEF’s statistical information, including data used in UNICEF’s flagship publications, The State of the World’s Children and Progress for Children. Also here are technical resources for conducting UNICEF-supported Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), which are a major source of global development data."

Children's Environments Research Group (

  • "The Children's Environments Research Group (CERG), provides an important link between university scholarship and the development of policies, environments and programs that fulfill children’s' rights and improve the quality of their lives. CERG has two major overlapping strands of work. The first is a focus on the planning, design and management of children’s physical environments. The second is a broader concern with fulfilling the rights of children, sometimes without a specific focus on the physical environment, such as our work on the development of parent’s and children’s understanding of children’s rights and of children’s experience with violence."
  • CERG is the homebase of Roger Hart's and his team

Children Framing Childhoods (

  • The Children Framing Childhood Project investigates how children perceive and experience their environments by examining the photographs they take and their personal narratives of these photographs. An important goal of the project is to improve communication between teachers and their students. The project has its origins in the cross-disciplinary, case-based HGSE course Thinking Like an Educator, which was launched in the spring of 2004.

Childwatch International Research Network (

  • "Childwatch International Research Network is a global network of institutions that collaborate in child research for the purpose of promoting child rights and improving children’s well-being around the world."

DFID CSO Youth Working Group - Youth Participation in Development: A Guide for Development Agencies and Policy Makers (

  • A project of the DFID | CSO Youth Working Group , this guide aims to increase understanding of the growing importance of, and greater potential for, youth participation in development practice and to explore key issues and approaches. But it goes beyond the rhetoric of many policy advocacy papers, which simply argue for a focus on youth participation. Rather, this guide provides information on how to actually work with youth at a practical operational level in respect of policy and programming. It does this through the provision of promising practice case studies (and their associated resources), and a number of quality standards that will help organisations to get started. Includes videos and an on-going blog .

GoKnow (

  • "GoKnow, Inc. intends to be the leader in technology pervasive, standards-based, scientifically validated curriculum and educational tools. What differentiates GoKnow from other education companies is the knowledge, research, and experience necessary to bring unified products for classrooms, schools, and districts. Our products uniquely integrate the use of technology, instructional design, and professional development to support educators and students in inquiry-based learning activities."
  • This is Elliot Soloway's company.

Green Map (

  • "With unique global icons and adaptable tools, Green Map System has engaged communities worldwide in mapping green living, nature and cultural resources since 1995. Green Maps chart a sustainable future! Explore and get involved."


  • "Our mission is to create great playspaces through the participation and leadership of communities."
  • Mobilizes local residents to build and maintain playspaces in their communities
  • It is currently crafting ways to use technology to map "play deserts" ( and foster social networks around their playgrounds

Plan International (

  • "Founded over 70 years ago, Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world. We work in 48 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty."

Rede Jovem (Youth Net -

  • "Youth Net Program is a initiative from Comunitas that has the mission to strengthen the low income youth from Brasil and stimulate their social and civic participation by providing access to new information and communication technologies(ICTs)"
  • Check "WikiMapa" (, a map wiki used by young people to map the resources from their local communities via mobile phones and web.
  • Check "SMS Esporte" (, a text-messaging (SMS) system to help young people exchange news and become aware of local opportunities

Save the Children (

  • "Save the Children is the leading independent organization creating lasting change in the lives of children in need in the United States and around the world. Recognized for our commitment to accountability, innovation and collaboration, our work takes us into the heart of communities, where we help children and families help themselves."
  • They seem to be doing interesting work with technology, including Internet-based telephony (

The FXB Center at Harvard (

  • The François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights is the first academic center to focus exclusively on the practical dynamic between the issues of health and human rights. Founded in 1993 through a gift from the Association François-Xavier Bagnoud, the FXB Center is a world leader in building a conceptual basis of the right to health and driving advocacy initiatives to incorporate human rights norms into international health policy.

UNICEF Innovation (

  • "Combining low-tech hardware with sophisticated open-source software, we explore novel ways to both empower young people and improve UNICEF's operations. We seek to connect youth who have access to information on the Internet to those who do not, through innovations in technology and program initiatives that are educational and inclusive. We also find ways to integrate appropriate technological systems into existing UNICEF working practices to augment and improve the effectiveness of our operations. We collaborate with others to make this happen, convening development professionals, academia, and the private sector."
  • Some of the projects include:
    • RapidSMS, an open source platform for data collection, logistics coordination and communication allowing any mobile phone to interact with the web.
    • YouthNet is UNICEF's social network for young activists. It allows young people to form connections, work together, and create opportunities even in low connectivity environments.
    • The Bee is UNICEF's solar-powered portable computing system for emergency response that allows communication, connectivity and data access where infrastructure does not exist.
    • Uniwiki extends the software that powers Wikipedia, making it easier for children around the world to share and collaborate online.

uMAP (

  • "uMAP is a participatory community mapping process to facilitate social action and neighborhood change in a way that is based on young people’s everyday lives, perceptions, values, assets and needs.[...] uMAP is different than other community mapping efforts across the globe because it relies on young people’s perceptions of what is going on in the spaces and programs important to them in their neighborhood and the city."
  • "uMAPPER is an interactive online mapping tool that can be adapted for any uMAP project! [...] We hope to have a prototype ready for the annual Safe City Youth Summit where we will be making maps related to youth tobacco use." (
  • Interesting bibliography on youth maps and child friendly cities:

University of Maryland's Human-Computer Interaction Lab (

  • "Through our research, we hope to gain a better understanding of the role technology plays in education and to provide guidelines for creating effective learning environments"
  • "This is Allison Druin's lab, where she carries research in areas such as children's interface technologies, educational applications, children as design partners, digital libraries, mobile computing and online communities."

Some of the projects include:

Funding Agencies and Opportunities

The Bernard van Leer Foundation (

  • The Bernard van Leer Foundation is an international grantmaking foundation based in The Hague. Through our grantmaking programmes we pioneer innovative ways to improve opportunities for disadvantaged young children. Through our free publications we share what we learn with practitioners and policy-makers and shape the debate about early childhood care and education.

MacArthur Foundation's Digital Media and Learning Competition (

  • The 2010 Digital Media and Learning Competition challenges designers, entrepreneurs, practitioners, researchers, and young people to put participatory learning to work on behalf of science, technology, engineering, math and their social contexts in the 21st century.