Transforming the 25th Schoolyard!

April 17, 2020


a student runs around the new track at the Space to Grow schoolyard at Field Elementary in Chicago

Space to Grow continues to transform Chicago schoolyards into vibrant outdoor spaces that support wellness, outdoor learning and connecting with nature. Last fall, the Space to Grow partners heard from hundreds of students, school staff, parents and neighbors at five schools about their priorities for a new schoolyard. Then, our design teams worked hard to illustrate their visions and developed designs for five more schoolyards.

Construction for these five schools is still continuing on schedule, and we’re looking forward to cutting the ribbon on the 25th schoolyard this fall—as well as schoolyards 21 through 24! Combined, these 25 schoolyards will be able to capture over 4.4 million gallons of water (that’s nearly 55,000 bathtubs) during Chicago’s heaviest storms and provide an incredible outdoor space for students across Chicago.

Here are the schoolyards we’re building in 2020:

  • Barry Elementary in Hermosa
  • Boone Elementary in West Ridge
  • Melody Elementary in West Garfield Park
  • Sherwood Elementary in Englewood
  • Harold Washington Elementary in Burnside

As part of each schoolyard transformation, the Space to Grow team engages with the school community—including students, teachers, parents and community members—to see what elements they would most like in a new schoolyard. By participating in fun activities and surveys, the school community highlights their priorities and votes on the elements they want in their new Space to Grow schoolyard.

The schoolyard design teams—which include engineers and landscape architects—use this input to create a schoolyard design that’s unique to each and every school. The proposed designs are then shared with the community and school, and feedback is gathered on the draft plans. This process allows all school stakeholders to have input in the final design of the schoolyard and ensures the schoolyard will meet the unique needs of each school and their community. This is really important because Space to Grow schoolyards are open to the entire neighborhood outside of school hours—just like a community park.

Space to Grow schoolyards are more than just a playground, a turf field or a garden. They truly serve as an extension of the classroom and a way to educate students about the natural environment around them. Plus, children with access to natural areas and green space are more active—one study showed that students who had access to natural areas at school engaged in physical activity 10 times longer than those students who had limited access to nature at school.

Healthy Schools Campaign and Openlands are committed to supporting the staff at each Space to Grow school in their effort to incorporate their new outdoor space into instruction during the school day. The Space to Grow managing partners provide customized professional development for educators and have developed a set of resources and lesson plans to help teachers use the school gardens and other schoolyard elements as extensions of the classroom. We look forward to continuing our work with these five new schools in the Space to Grow family.