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Mexico City, like many global urban centers, has millions of children who need better access to quality learning experiences and environments. Tremendous strains, of large-scale growth in enrollment with simultaneous drop-out rates at the secondary level, have placed tremendous pressure on the Mexican education system. Providing rich and meaningful experiences early in life is critical to long-term educational success. Alternative, accessible experiences are needed to engage learners of all ages and encourage them to take agency over their own learning. Informal learning is already happening all around the city, and highlighting the inquisitive and playful nature of engaging with various events and aspects of the city better demonstrates the value of these experiences.


  1. support learners’ natural curiosity and social nature to play & learning;

  2. give learners agency and autonomy in the experience, supporting them in taking an active, rather than passive stance in their own learning;

  3. engage learners with digital technologies and experiences that support “21st century skills”

A-pops is a networked learning experience across Mexico City that supports young learners in engaging in emergent and playful opportunities in and beyond their local communities.

As part of the Laboratorio para la Ciudad’s Playful City program, this project aims to embed playful learning experiences across Mexico City that are creative, collaborative and public, by leveraging existing public spaces throughout neighborhoods and micro communities across the city.

By embedding a variety of playful learning experiences across a variety of locations, a wide range of learners have the ability to easily and socially engage in transformative experiences that support key skills in design, collaboration, creativity, programming and learner agency.

aprender: v. to learn
Jen Groff
Lety Lozano

Nayeli Ramírez

Daniel Fernández de Cordova Shore

The Fountain at the front of the plaza is a delightful feature of the space and very popular amongst young people. With existing embedded colorful LEDs, the fountain activities intermittently throughout the day and plays in a random pattern—a perfect opportunity to give users agency over the function of the fountain. The surface of the fountain is made up of concrete blocks divided up in concentric circles, with the LEDs and fountain jets embedded in each. For this installation, we will embed pressure sensors in blocks of the outer ring, each of which corresponding to basic programming commands.


The fountain will still function as it has traditionally, activating sporadically throughout the day, but now as young people play throughout the space they can explore and interact with the fountain, exploring how and why it responds in certain ways, and ultimately take on their own agency in the space and ownership of the activity. Individuals can play with the command blocks to program the  fountain to playback simple patterns, or groups of players can explore how to work together to create patterns collaboratively.


This installation promotes discovery through play, collaboration, design, logic skills, and communication. Their natural play in the space can be transformed into active agency over the experience. Our intent is to help young learners identify how they can not just be ‘receivers’ of experiences but be drivers and owners of those experiences—and ultimately their own learning journey. Individual play allows a learner to begin to understand the basic programming commands, while collaboratively play requires communication and collaboration.

The aim of the project is leveraging public spaces across the city as a networked, emergent learning system—supporting young people across the city in powerful learning experiences outside of and around the existing educational system, while embedded in the local communities. As these installations grow throughout the city, they provide a wide array of contexts and activities, and consequently key mindsets and skills. They will be supported by an online platform networking them together, which also provides an additional on-ramp to engage in and participate in each installation, and overall incentives and supports for completing the entire experience.

Download the full guideapops_files/Apops-proposal_17Oct2015.pdf