December 9, 2022
The Space to Grow partnership was formed to transform Chicago schoolyards into green spaces for play and learning, using green infrastructure to help build the city’s climate resilience and reduce neighborhood flooding. When the program was launched, the capital partners — Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Department of Water Management and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago — committed $52 million in capital funds to build 34 schoolyards in the first phase, and we are excited to announce that we just cut the ribbon to open our 34th schoolyard!
This year’s cohort of four schools were designed using Space to Grow’s unique community engagement process. You can read more about it here. This process ensures that each schoolyard reflects the needs and priorities of its community and becomes a beloved resource for years to come. The excitement has been building for all year for these four new schoolyards. For weeks before the Coles Language Academy schoolyard opened, kids showed up every day with their basketballs and footballs, hopeful and eager to put their new schoolyard to use!
Since 2014 when the first schoolyards opened, the Space to Grow managing partners — Healthy Schools Campaign and Openlands — have trained nearly 900 educators; worked with over 11,000 students and engaged with thousands of parents, neighbors and school staff to design and activate their schoolyards. These amazing schoolyards also infiltrate over 20 million gallons of water each year – keeping that water out of homes and basements during the heaviest of storms.
This transformational program has made so much impact in a short time, and the partners are thrilled to build more schoolyards over the next few years. The Space to Grow partners are harnessing the collaboration, enthusiasm and learning from the first phase to plan an exciting second phase: more beautiful green schoolyards, more community green space, more climate resilience for the city! Kenneth Varner, HSC’s Community Engagement Manager, is looking forward to what will come next for this innovative and unique partnership, “I am most excited about reaching a wider range of schools in this next phase of Space to Grow. There are so many very deserving communities out there and I hope that we can be part of their story.”
Take a look at a few of the photos from our most recent ribbon cuttings, or visit our Space to Grow gallery for more.