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Project: SPS: Portable Parklet

Project: SPS: Portable Parklet


Ciencia Pública: Skateboarding

This portable exhibition was designed to travel throughout the Bay Area and squeeze neatly into the length of two parking spaces, converting small urban spaces into a dynamic public learning lab. It is known as a portable parklet (a publicly accessible open space that serves as an extension of the sidewalk), it holds several interactive exhibits on the science of skateboarding. It is built to survive the weather, stand up to unsupervised use, and maximize accessibility via universal design principles and bilingual labels.

Inspired by the growing presence of parklets (now shared spaces) in cities across the world, the portable parklet gives us excellent opportunities to expand our mission. The parklet can travel to underserved communities and reach individuals who can’t normally visit the Exploratorium. A parklet can be cocreated with community groups and designed to include location-specific content.

In this case, we worked with an after-school skateboard club run by the Jamestown Community Center in San Francisco’s Mission district. We worked with Latino middle-school students—kids at an age of budding cognitive and developmental abilities, when an introduction to science can spark a lifelong interest. The student skaters gave us advice on the exhibits and labels and tested prototypes. They worked with a neighborhood mural group, Precita Eyes, to plan and paint the mural that is the parklet’s defining feature.


Creating the Parklet


SPS staff worked with clubmembers in planning sessions throughout the process of creating the parklet.


We tested prototypes of the parklet elements over several rounds, with the student team and at public events. Here, “Learn How to Ollie” gets an enthusiastic tryout.


The skateboard club run by Jamestown is attended by more than a dozen boys and girls.


Students painted the mural onto blank skateboard decks and installed it onto the parklet.