November 10, 2021
September 14, 2021 Space to Grow ribbon cutting at Whistler Elementary in Chicago’s West Pullman community. This improved schoolyard features new playground equipment, outdoor classroom space, gardens and a track and field.
The Space to Grow partners are excited to announce the opening of five new schoolyards in Chicago communities:
Horace Mann Academy (South Chicago)
Arnold Mireles Academy (South Chicago)
Isabelle C O’Keeffe School of Excellence (South Shore)
Wentworth Elementary School (West Englewood)
John Whistler Elementary School (West Pullman)
These schoolyards are opening at a time when students and communities need safe, healthy outdoor spaces more than ever. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make indoor gatherings risky, the need for a place for school communities to come together and for students to have space for outdoor learning, physical education and play, has never been greater.
A student plays in their new schoolyard at Whistler Elementary in Chicago.
In fall of 2020, each school community — including students, staff, parents, caregivers and neighbors — had the opportunity to weigh in on their vision and priorities for these new spaces. At the height of the pandemic when all schools were in session remotely, the partners put together a virtual process and worked with the communities to build their vision for these spaces. For many, it was an uplifting experience to look forward to when it would be safer to gather, learn and play together.
Each schoolyard reflects the vision of its community, and the schoolyards are open to the community outside of school hours. Popular elements include new play equipment, tracks, turf fields and gardens. The vision of the students at Horace Mann is highlighted through inspirational messages carved into wooden logs in their nature play area. At Arnold Mireles Academy, the community overwhelmingly wanted a zip line, which was able to be included in the play equipment – a first for a CPS schoolyard!
October 6, 2021 Space to Grow ribbon cutting at Horace Mann Elementary in South Chicago’s community. This schoolyard features new playground equipment, turf field, jogging track, nature-play area and an outdoor classroom.
Space to Grow is an innovative partnership led by Healthy Schools Campaign and Openlands to transform Chicago schoolyards into vibrant spaces to play, learn, and be outside, while helping neighborhoods address urban flooding issues. Each Space to Grow schoolyard gets a $1.5 million transformation, funded by Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Department of Water Management and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation DIstrict of Greater Chicago.
The Space to Grow partners are grateful to everyone who participated in helping design, plan and build these schoolyards despite the challenges of the pandemic.
We are excited to see how students and community members use their schoolyards to gather, learn, play and care for natural resources.
Photo credit: Space to Grow