Find & Seek

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Find & Seek: Creating play environments that give voice to children's imagination

Brooklyn, United StatesBrooklyn, United States
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
Project Stage:
$1,000 - $10,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Amidst an educational crisis, all children, particularly those living in poverty, need to play at their own pace, tinker with open-ended materials, and develop elaborate imaginative projects and stories. We build capacity within families and schools, so Play can take center stage in early childhood.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

Red Hook, Brooklyn, recovering from decades of crime, a crack epidemic, and a devastating hurricane, and still dealing with epic unemployment, b
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In NYC, a vast spectrum of early education exists. Arts-based private preschools empower children to direct their own learning, while low income children in public programs are granted scarce time for free play and self-directed learning. While the NYC PreK expansion aims to level the playing field, the city will need a powerful network of professional development to build needed capacity around preschool play and parent understanding of play.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Find & Seek's materials lab/storytelling studio shines a spotlight on the wall, literally, and figuratively on children's play as a vital force in healthy development. We source & curate a wide spectrum of natural and recycled objects that lend themselves to open-ended, imaginative building projects, and we work to form crucial links between schools and families. We contract out to well-resourced preschools, and we get grants to work with sites in low income communities. We are addressing palpable local needs in Red Hook by partnering with the Alex House Project (a local organization serving young mothers and their children) and the Brooklyn New School (a progressive public school that is starting an economically-integrated Infant Center).
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Setting: Red Hook, Brooklyn: Up to 24% Unemployment. Largest Public Housing Project in Brooklyn. Step 1: 16-year-old mother gets connected to Alex House Project, which serves young mothers in Red Hook. Step 2: Mom attends parenting classes. Step 3: Child attends Find & Seek classes offered in conjunction with Alex House. Child flourishes, having opportunity to play with wide range of materials, in a setting where play validated/supported. Step 4: Mother learns about importance of child-directed/free play, and facilitates her child's play. Step 5: Mother tells other moms. Step 6: Child develops deepened interest in play and by extension, learning. Step 7: Family is engaged as participants in community. Step 8: More families attend.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Find & Seek served over 100 babies, toddlers and young children and families through free programs we offered in Fall of 2013 (volunteer staffed) and Spring of 2014 (funded through Brooklyn Arts Council) at the Red Hook Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. We have hosted two community education round tables to get local players talking about what we are all doing with and for children in Red Hook. We have been recruited by preschools around the city to bring our work to their communities of children and families. We have been working outside schools in the realm of play facilitation and advocacy. Now we are committing to also work within the system, namely within the NYC Dept of Ed's PreK expansion of hundreds of new classes. Once we are in more schools, we can better advocate for more play in schools. Part of this work includes deepened connection to families and parent education.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Find & Seek is in conversation with multiple players on the policy level, and is seeking potential funders, so that we can offer our programs for free in low income communities. Within 5 years we hope to operate 5 of our signature early childhood materials labs in schools and community centers throughout the city, two or more of which will operate free of charge. Our ongoing collaboration with entities such as Alex House, Teaching Beyond the Square and Brooklyn New School will help disseminate this work to thousands more children in need of deepened imaginative play.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Find & Seek is fiscally sponsored through World Education Endeavor. Ticketed Mommy & Me classes and fees for workshops and professional development are income, in an expanding roster of venues. We have appealed to our local city council members for city discretionary funds to staff workshops for young mothers/children from our target neighborhood of Red Hook. We are open to large foundation and corporate funding, and interested in collaborating.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Red Hook has many needs/responses (Red Hook Art Project, RHI, Community Justice Center), but most are aimed at children ages 10 and up. We want to fill the gap. The NYC Dept of Ed is adding 30k PreK slots, so we are talking to staff there and to local early childhood agencies as we look for new partners and venues. Nationally we have many kindred spirits, like Play Lab in WA, and locally we are in conversation with Teaching Beyond the Square (Beginnings Nursery), Tinkergarten, Spellbound Theatre and Tiny Bop. It's exciting to see complementary approaches to deepened play in early childhood.
About You
Find & Seek
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Project
Organization Name

Find & Seek

How long has your organization been operating?

Organization Country

, NY, Brooklyn

Country where this project is creating social impact

, NY, Brooklyn

What awards or honors has the project received?
Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Individuals, Businesses, Regional government.


Incubator Membership Award, Made in NY Media Center. Six months free membership at state-of-the-art communal office space in Dumbo. Brooklyn, NY. 2014.

Brooklyn Arts Council Community Arts Grant, “FInd & Seek at the Red Hook Public Library.” $3,000 Grant to fund 8 weeks of Find & Seek's free programs at the public library. 2014.

Primary Target Age Group

1.5 - 3, 3 - 5.

Your role in Education

Administrator, Teacher.

Please specify which of the following best applies:

I am applying on behalf of a particular program or initiative.

The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with (if applicable)

Public (tuition-free), Private (tuition-based), Home-School.

Intervention Focus

Extracurricular, Professional Development, Community, Parenting.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Actively Designing Space & Culture as Essential Elements for Learning: Creating cost-effective methods to infuse a school with habits, language, and materials needed for learning through play.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?


Business development, including publicity/marketing.


Multimedia, hands-on Professional Development sessions for schools and organizations serving children.

What key learning outcomes does your work seek to improve?

• Develop more experimental play environments for young children, particularly in low income communities.
• Advocate for more child-directed, free play.
• Facilitate children's play to help them sustain long and meaningful play, which research shows benefits their intellectual and emotional development.
• Create a recycled materials clearinghouse specifically for use in early childhood in NYC.
• Develop a community center for the fragile neighborhood of Red Hook, Brooklyn, connected to other great family programs like Alex House Project and great schools like Brooklyn New School.

Secondary Form
PROGRAM DESIGN CLARITY: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Please succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details

A) At Find & Seek, we facilitate young children's exploration of a wide range of open-ended arts materials, and collaborate with children on stories, installations and performances. B) Free programs at the Red Hook branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Ticketed programs at our studio in Brooklyn. C) Free: 1 hour/week. Fee-based: 3 hours/week, until we secure funding to do this full time. D) Founder-directors Kristin Eno and Elisha Georgiou, both M.Ed, Columbia Teachers College (Art Education).

INSPIRATION: What do you consider the most important trends or evidence that inspire you to believe the world is ready to Re-imagine Learning? Please elaborate.

The Maker Movement, dissemination of Adventure Playgrounds (building of Imagination Playground and Anarchy Zone in the US), international coalitions advocating for more play in childhood, the opening of a range of alternative schools, from Brightworks to Blue School, and the digital renaissance all indicate that the world is ready to re-imagine learning. The NYC Coalition for Play (Alliance for Childhood and David Rockwell), In Defense of Childhood (Deborah Meier), and the Ultimate Block Party in Central Park were signposts of play advocacy. Reggio Emilia is more popular in schools. Maker Faire grows. The Common Core receives harsh critique.

LEARNING THROUGH PLAY: What does “learning through play” mean to you and why it is a must-have, instead of a nice to have?

Learning through play is the only way that children truly come to understand the world. By facilitating deeper, more expansive play in our students, we have at our fingertips a range of great tools that will shepherd those beautiful children into this wild world. We have learned how to teach "the wrong way," but we know better. Our wealth of wisdom from Reggio Emilia, Froebel, Dewey, Vygotsky (and the Tools of the Mind curriculum, in itself a great tool), Vivian Paley, the scholars at Bank Street: these voices all remind us to enable children to play more, and play deeper.

SUSTAINABILITY: Please list a quick breakdown of your funding, indicating the percentage that comes from each source.

Find & Seek is in talks with the Brooklyn Public Library: we are seeking a contract to offer our programs to library-goers. Last year our free library programs were funded by our own volunteer hours, then a Brooklyn Arts Council grant. We are beginning to offer private/ticketed classes as well.

MODEL: How does your mission relate to your business model (i.e. Non-profit, for-profit or hybrid)?

Early childhood best practice--play-based learning--has historically been relegated to the private sector. As the private sector's resources multiply, play is trendy and marketable, and we can easily sell ticketed classes to those who can pay. With our hybrid business model, our revenue helps us increase our presence in public schools, libraries and community centers. We thus level the playing field, reaching children who usually don’t get exposed to play-based learning.

FUNDING PRIORITIES: If your organization were given $20K in unrestricted funding today, how would you use it? Why?

1. 40 hrs to Alex House Project for young mothers/children (5K) 2. Hire 4 Red Hook community members 40 hrs each to attract Red Hook families to our programs (5K) 3. Throw party/raise $100K (2.5K) 4. 20 hrs at local school (2.5K) 5. Red Hook teen intern (2.5K) 6. Supplies (ink, legal fees, plastic bins) (2.5K).

PARTNERSHIPS: Tell us about your partnerships that enhance your approach.

We are currently developing our partnership with the Alex House Project, working on a proposal for funding that would pay us to provide educational workshops to the children of the young mothers enrolled in that support and mentoring program. Kristin Eno sits on the planning committee of Brooklyn New School's Infant Toddler Center, and is helping that innovative school make its dream a reality.

COLLABORATIONS: Have you considered or initiated partnerships with any of the other Challenge Pacesetters? If so, please share.

Last year we hosted a Cardboard Challenge (Imagination Foundation) event at BEAM Center in Brooklyn. 20+ families created a box village/wonderland. We want to learn from PlayBuild about transforming vacant lots into play spaces, and to learn from the Institute of Play, what digital possibilities connect with Find & Seek.

VISION: If you had unlimited funding, and you could fast forward 15 years to when your program has been able to achieve wild success - what will it have achieved?

We will have developed NYC's only warehouse where recycled and natural objects are arranged in a visually stunning way, and used specifically for early childhood exploration. This will expand upon Materials for the Arts in Queens (a city-funded program where early childhood programs cannot shop) and Beginnings Nursery (has a beautiful catalogue of materials for young children’s use). We will partner with publicly funded programs so NYC’s most vulnerable children have access.

IMPACT - KEY METRICS: Please list the key data points that you would cite as evidence that you are able to achieve lasting learning outcomes. Please also share one data point for which you most hope to see better results over time

- Early literacy is developed and strengthened through play, interactive storytelling, and deepened parent/child relationships.
- Social and emotional growth is fostered through meaningful play with adult caregivers.
- Enriched physical environments (created through space transformation) increases children's capacity to learn and grow.
(To be gathered when our program is funded for the next round, anticipated start date Oct 2, will do research over 6-week cycle of our program at the Red Hook Library)

IMPACT - REPORTING SAMPLE: Please attach any examples of your impact reporting. [optional]:
RESEARCH AND EVIDENCE: Please link or attach any research or evidence resource you are open to sharing more widely [optional]. Building research and evidence is a key aim of this initiative, and the resources you share may be chosen for listing in the Center for Education Innovations library:
SOURCE: If applicable - who created the research or evidence you are choosing to share? :
IMPACT - REACH: How many people did your project directly engage in programmatic activities in the last year?

0 to 500

STUDY: Has an external evaluation or study been conducted of your organization?


Other (please specify)
Number of Employees:

Fewer than 10

Number of Volunteers:

Fewer than 10

APPROACHES: Given the complexity of play, it is not surprising that there have been numerous research attempts to categorize the different types and approaches! Please indicate which of the following your project focuses on.

Play with Objects, Symbolic Play, Pretence/ Socio-Dramatic Play, Creating a Supportive Socio-Emotional Environment, Providing a Range of Opportunities (providing the equipment and materials needed for various types of play), Adults Participating (Ensuring adults are able to play alongside children), Other (please specify).

Other (please specify)

Play in and with nature/natural objects. Play that drives and develops story, storytelling, early literacy.

AFFILIATION: Please specify if your organization has any existing affiliations with the LEGO Group.