Photo Credit: DJ Glisson

Space to Grow schoolyards are an extension of the classroom designed to enhance academic opportunities.

A vast body of research documents the ways in which hands-on and outdoor learning opportunities benefit students, and the ways in which exposure to nature and outdoor play help children focus when they return to the classroom.

Principal Perspective

It’s telling that principals—who carry weighty responsibility for students’ academic achievement—have spoken up directly about the schoolyards’ positive impact on learning. In the words of Space to Grow principals:

“The entire campus is turning into a learning opportunity for our kids and our community … Science teachers will be encouraged to use the space to teach botany and the water cycle. Everything on campus will be utilized for understanding and to promote healthy activities. We are solidifying [students’] understanding of how the world works, and how water works, in such a unique way.”
–Principal Andrea Black, Schmid School

“The garden expands a student’s horizons. Instead of looking at plants in a book, they can see them right outside … Kids will be able to name plants and their various parts and identify different species at all grade levels.”
–Principal Dennis Sweeney, Grissom School

Benefits Extend Beyond the Schoolyard

Researchers at Loyola University of Chicago and the University of California’s Nutrition Policy Institute assessed the usage and benefit of Space to Grow schoolyards at Morrill, Grissom and Cather elementary schools and found schoolyards provide academic and behavioral benefits. Teachers reported using the new schoolyard as an extension of the classroom for a wide variety of lessons and activities.

Professional Development for Educators: Making the Most of the Schoolyard’s Potential to Support Learning

Space to Grow partners provide ongoing support tailored to each school’s needs, with a special focus on professional development for educators. This includes teacher resources and professional development to help incorporate the schoolyard into lesson plans and the culture of the school.

For example, Space to Grow partners help teachers incorporate physical activity and nutrition education into lesson plans using the new schoolyard and help each school create a plan to make progress toward the Healthy CPS Indicator. Partners also provide training for teachers on the unique stormwater management features of the schoolyard and how to incorporate those into lesson plans with a focus on STEM goals.

For more about the resources and workshops to support learning through the schoolyards, see Current Schools.