The New York Times recently ran an article about Presidio Middle School. Back in 2015, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, a billionaire well known for his local philanthropy, decided to adopt the school as a sort of personal volunteer project.
At a meeting with students, Benioff asked them to come up with a list of improvements they wished for the school. A bit later, Principal Thomas Ekno reported back the wishes of the students to Benioff: personal computers, better cafeteria food and a “funner environment” (er, maybe better grammar lessons too, lol).
Benioff whipped out his checkbook and personally financed 1,200 Chromebook laptops, one for every student in the school.
To address requests to make things “funner”, Benioff suggested the students participate in a club to work on a new playground design. He hired design firm Scientific Art Studio to collaborate with the students. The firm has designed some innovative playgrounds including one at the San Francisco Zoo.
The club’s work included ideation, clay modeling, sketch rendering, and working with architectural plans to refine the layout. Students took inspiration from California dunes, community gardens, and the ancient Greek’s agora, a public open space used for assemblies and markets.
After several months, the first design concepts from the club’s brainstorming were revealed, which transformed the 51,000 sq. ft. of pavement into outdoor spaces with gardens, tiered seating areas, a tree house and a rock-climbing wall. UPDATE 7/2/17: Grey Todd of the SFUSD provided us with a link to the most updated designs – download it here (PDF, 134MB).
Once the concept is final, Benioff plans to finance the construction of the playground. His hope is that his work with Presidio Middle School will provide a model for younger tech executives to personally work with schools.