Omaha Urban Thinkscapes Logo Design

  • Daring to think of what could be accomplished on a bright and sunny day
  • Thick, simple line work that could come from a crayon, not a pen
  • Bold, playful colors because all children want the BRIGHTEST COLOR EVER when coloring
  • Featuring three landmark Omaha buildings to signify unity across the city
  • As Omaha Urban Thinkscapes evolves, so may this image evolve

*Cost of image design development donated anonymously to Omaha Urban Thinkscapes*

Omaha Urban Thinkscapes Video

A video project in partnership with University of Nebraska Omaha Maverick|PR
See Our Introductory Video Here

Ralph Smith, Managing Director ~ Campaign for Grade Level Reading

“Research conclusively supports the significance of play, and the paramount importance of parent-child interaction from birth onward.  “Children are hard-wired for learning. The question is:  Are we prepared to enable, encourage and expand the opportunity for learning?  —That’s the challenge that this movement is taking on; and it is taking it on by looking at the larger environment, by looking at the built environment, by heartening back to the wonderful literature about third places, and recreating this notion that there are places and spaces where community happens, and in those places and spaces, we have this opportunity to promote a vastly enriched and expanded notion of learning.”




  • At Home

  • In Nature

  • Alone or With Friends

  • At Church, Synagogue, & Mosque

  • At play

  • In Books

  • At Clubs & Activities

  • In school



Collaboration & Play

University of Nebraska Omaha College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences; Connect GO with the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce; and Metro-Omaha Raise Me to Read are collaborators in this collective impact and community engagement initiative.

The vision of Omaha Urban Thinkscapes is to create playful public spaces that improve the health, well-being and development of babies and children and their families in Metro-Omaha.  The Thinkscapes project will help design, build, research, and plan cultural/educational events on new public spaces for playful engagement and learning.




Campaign for Grade Level Reading Crucibles of Practice Salon Webinar ~Inspiring Learning in Every Day Places ~

Dr. Debora Wisneski and Kathleen Knudsen presented information about Omaha Urban Thinkscapes at this webinar, where they noted how an article about the World War I Memorial in Smithsonian Magazine, described its work, which seemed very close to ours: “. . . Art is not something separate from history or humanity or memory or society. It is the tangle of those things, the interrelatedness of those things, the harnessing of the collision of those things in process and in breathing life into one new thing.” Our our tangled, interrelated work on this “new thing” continues. (Image by Orpheus Green)
Inspiring Learning In Everyday Places

Campaign for Grade Level Reading Pacesetter & Comms Award


Metro-Omaha Raise Me to Read received landmark awards from the Campaign for Grade Level Reading.  The Pacesetter was for development of  Equitable Development of Places and Spaces that Encourage and Enhance Parent-Child Interaction. 

The Comms Award was for Service Learning, Maverick PR, and Strategic Writing with University of Nebraska Omaha students:   Reciprocal Relationship: Shared Messaging With a Key Demographic; Shared Meaning Developing Creative Works.


  • Create a playful sense of place in Omaha public spaces that showcases the art and culture of Omaha neighborhoods

  • Engage children and families with playful learning experiences while using public spaces

  • Increase the mental, physical, language, and cognitive development of Omaha children and residents

Current Partners & Community Community Advisors

The Omaha Urban Thinkscapes team continues to develop enthusiastic partners and advisors across the spectrum, including arts, transportation, planning, design, STEM, civic offices, education, play, natural resources, and community and health and wellness initiatives.


In launch events held in October 2021, work included leadership team planning and direction from Dr. Sarah Lytle, Executive Director of Playful Learning Landscapes Action Network, and a keynote address to the public from Dr. Kathy Hirsch-Pasek from Temple University.  Attendees practiced community engagement activities together and committed to the work of the project

Community Engagement

Community Engagement is key to the success of this project.  Our community engagement sessions have been supported by the  Learning Community of Douglas and Sarpy Counties at the North and South Omaha Learning Community Centers.

Video ~ Philadelphia Urban Thinkscapes EngagementLearning Community of Douglas & Sarpy Counties

Omaha Urban Thinkscapes Play Dates

Three community engagement “Play Dates” have occurred at the North and South Omaha Learning Community Centers!

The Learning Community of Douglas & Sarpy Counties has been a key partner in establishing these playful learning experiences and introduction to the concept of Omaha Urban Thinkscapes. 

We learned about the importance of play to parents, and about their community hopes.

Children learn complex skills through play, but a key takeaway was that Families + Play + JOY.

Placemaking & Urban Development: Partnership with Plaza de La Raza

  • Performance and Consistency: Creating a place for music, dance, and other performing arts; adding to the 24th street cooridor with features emphasizing the Latino culture & reflecting the neighborhood’s historic and contemporary diversity.
  • Play:  This public space will invite play and interaction with adults, children, and the environment, along with learning embedded features and cradle to career messaging in partnership with the Omaha Urban thinkscapes initiative.
  • Gathering & Accessibility:  Complementing the 24th Street District  with areas where people can gather, and improved accessibility via terracing for performance seating and relaxation.
From:  La Plaza de la Raza – A vision Forward
Itzel Lopez, Board President – Latino Economic Development Council


FUTURE PROJECT: The Historical Markers: Lived Experience Then & Now

“Time is no longer a gulf to be bridged, because it separates, but it is actually the supportive ground of process in which the present is rooted." ~ H. G. Gadamer


The broader context of underserved and underdeveloped areas includes understanding and celebrating the lived experience and funds of knowledge within families, in addition to understanding the history of the community. Advisory Board members working on a project called Omaha Urban Thinkscapes (playful learning spaces in non-school places) suggested that this project should include Historical Markers at future sites to enmesh the story of place within the playful learning environment.  This project will collaboratively engage the community using Community Based Research design and the Playful Learning Landscapes Action Network facilitation “gameboard” to involve and empower residents to share in the creation of places and spaces that foster meaningful change.  Through such engagement and community empowerment, an historical event or individual will be chosen to be artistically represented in Historical Markers at each site.  Experiences including “Living History,” Restorying, and connection to existing school and community projects will allow visitors to engage in, and extend from, this Historical Marker, making every visit an opportunity to learn, intergenerationally connect, and to tell one’s own story.  This equitable urban design project provides real opportunities for marginalized groups to have decision making power and connects placemaking to social and historical contexts and improved learning outcomes.

Photographs of Thinkscape projects around the world


Communities around the world discovered that collaboration and development of small public spaces for children led to further research in issues of children and families, budgets that increased investment in public spaces, and new ideas for childcare and digital platforms for families.


“. . . Developmentally appropriate play with parents and peers is a singular opportunity to promote the social emotional, cognitive, language, and self-regulation skills that build executive function and a prosocial brain. Furthermore, play supports the formation of the safe, stable, and nurturing relationships with all caregivers that children need to thrive. . . .Play is not frivolous: it enhances brain structure and function and promotes executive function (i.e., the process of learning, rather than the content), which allow us to pursue goals and ignore distractions.” American Academy of Pediatrics



Learning and Play: Research, Initiatives, Books, References

Throughout the world, city leaders are recognizing the need for development of community spaces to improve the lives of young children and their families.  Organizations such as Urban95 from the Bernard van Leer Foundation, Playful Planet, Child in the City, Streets for Kids, The Lego Foundation – “Build a World of Play Challenge” and Playful Learning Landscapes Action Network are coordinating and supporting efforts of city planning that includes children’s rights and well-being.