Resources for Teachers

students gardening Chicago school

Space to Grow schoolyards support student health and wellness, outdoor learning and stormwater management. Your schoolyard is a valuable asset that can help address childhood obesity, improve school performance and make communities happier, safer and healthier places.

We’ve collected specific resources, activities and lesson plans for two focus areas.


Teacher Toolkit

This toolkit provides information and resources for teachers about the benefits of a Space to Grow schoolyard and how to use the schoolyard for increasing physical activity, teaching outdoors and more.

This guide provides you with an introduction to your Space to Grow schoolyard and outlines how the schoolyard supports student health and wellness, outdoor learning and stormwater management. Specific ideas for teachable moments featuring specific elements of the schoolyard are included in the schoolyard tour.

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Health and Wellness

A growing body of research shows what many teachers already know: Healthy students are better learners. Unfortunately, the prevalence of chronic diseases—including asthma, obesity and diabetes—has doubled among children over the past several decades. Utilizing your Space to Grow schoolyard can help reverse these trends.

Resources + Activities

Fit to Learn

Fit to Learn was an innovative professional development program for Chicago educators. It provided practical methods for making health and wellness a regular part of the school experience while meeting academic standards in math, reading, science, social studies, art, music and more. Just as important, Fit to Learn was about having fun and developing lifelong skills. We offered workshops at part of the Fit to Learn program until 2018, but resources are still available.

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Outdoor Learning

Your Space to Grow schoolyard is the perfect way to extend your classroom. When students spend time in nature, they reap benefits that transfer to the classroom on many levels. They get a break, they become active, they restore their attention and they’re less stressed.

Resources + Activities

Taking Class Outside: An Intro to Teaching with Native Plants

Research shows that increasing students’ exposure to nature and supporting outdoor learning leads to positive social-emotional outcomes, decreased stress, improved mood and improvements in academic performance.

This workshop is ideal for educators of students in grades 3-5, but the lessons and materials provided can be adapted for any grade level.

Video Recording

Presentation Slides

Lesson Plan

Resource Folder

Outdoor Teaching + Learning in the COVID Era
This is a professional development webinar recording on outdoor teaching and learning.

Outdoor Teaching + Learning in the COVID Era

Sample Schoolyard Use Schedule

This is an example of a weekly sign-up sheet teachers could use to schedule class time in the outdoor classroom for each day.

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How and Why to Teach Outdoors

This packet includes information about the benefits of teaching outdoors, a sample lesson and practical tips for taking your classroom outside.

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Tips from Chicago Teachers

We asked teachers in the Building School Gardens network to share advice they would give other teachers on how to use their garden as an extension of the classroom. Here is what they said.

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Tips and Tricks for Outdoor Classroom Management

A toollkit from from Boston Public School teachers experienced in using the schoolyard as a resource for teaching.

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Greening STEM: Taking Technology Outdoors

As part of Greening STEM: Taking Technology Outdoors, National Environmental Education Week (April 14-20, 2013) highlighted the growing opportunity to engage today’s students in learning about our environment, with new technologies that enable scientific research and develop 21st century skills.

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Edible Garden Activities + Resources

Curriculum Connections

This resource from Ellen Clore at the Collegiate School in Richmond, Va., features lesson plans for each season.

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A Handful of Seeds

A guide on saving seeds for educators from the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center in Northern California.

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Big Green Teaching in Your Learning Garden

This collection of resources from the Big Green includes lessons, resources and a video library.

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Native Garden Activities + Resources

Native Plant ID Guide

This guide includes photos and information about plants commonly grown in Space to Grow schoolyards.

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Butterfly Guide

This guide from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has information about attracting butterflies to your garden.

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Controlling Weeds in Your Garden

A guide about identifying and controlling weeds in a garden.

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Weed ID Guide

This guide will help you identify and remove common weeds from your schoolyard garden.

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Stormwater Management

All Space to Grow schoolyards include special materials, surfaces and techniques that capture significant amounts of rain, which is especially helpful during heavy storms. These features provide a great opportunity to teach students about stormwater management and green infrastructure.

Resources + Activities

Stormwater Management Lesson Plans for Grades 3-12

This booklet includes a set of lesson plans for 3-12 school teachers that enable environmental and STEM learning opportunities to be taught on school grounds.

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