Note from Storm: If you’ve read my new Renewal Success Guide, you know that repurpose, renew, and reconnect are three words that crop up in the most effective restoration and revitalization activities.
You’ll see all three concepts at work in this wonderful Openlands (funded by the Joyce Foundation) initiative that renews the quality of life of schools by repurposing playgrounds as green space, while reconnecting schools to their neighborhoods.
Space to Grow: Greening Chicago Schoolyards, a partnership led by Openlands and Healthy Schools Campaign, is an innovative program to transform Chicago schoolyards into inviting green open spaces that provide students, their families and the broader community with the opportunity for active play, space for physical education classes, opportunities for outdoor learning, gardening and environmental literacy, and engagement with art.
Funding and leadership for Space to Grow are generously provided by Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Department of Water Management, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
The benefits of providing children with opportunities to improve their physical health and social-emotional learning have been well documented.
While the main objective of Space to Grow is to build schoolyards that meet the needs of students, these green schoolyards will have the added benefit of reconnecting communities with their local public schools; providing much-needed green space in otherwise heavily urbanized neighborhoods; and, significantly contributing to a reduction in stormwater runoff across the city.
Schoolyards will also bring public art into communities and provide gathering spaces for art-related activities including theater and musical performances.
Schoolyards can also serve as gathering spots for other community programs including fresh vegetable delivery, community meetings and other healthy food programs.