Space to Grow is an innovative program led by Healthy Schools Campaign and Openlands to transform Chicago schoolyards into vibrant outdoor spaces that benefit students, community members and the environment. Schoolyard renovations prioritize physical activity, outdoor learning, exploration and community engagement. The green schoolyards also incorporate landscape features that capture a significant amount of rainfall, helping keep the city’s water resources clean and resulting in less neighborhood flooding.
Space to Grow uses a unique model that brings together capital funds and leadership from Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Department of Water Management, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.
Space to Grow also engages nonprofit and other on-the-ground partners to help support our wellness goals at each schoolyard. For example, our partnership with The Kitchen Community ensures that each schoolyard has an edible garden where students can grow healthy foods.
Space to Grow transformed four schoolyards in 2014, and six more schoolyards are scheduled for completion in the fall of 2015. Each Space to Grow school engages in a months-long planning process during which school staff, students and community members provide a vision for their schoolyard. The schoolyards are then designed and constructed to meet the unique needs and visions of each community.
Once schoolyard construction is complete, the project is far from over. We continue to work with the schools to help them maintain, enhance and maximize the educational benefits of their schoolyards. In the coming years, we plan to bring Space to Grow schoolyards and programming to more CPS elementary schools across the city.
Space to Grow schoolyards are more than just playgrounds. The schoolyards include spaces for physical activity, such as turf fields, jogging tracks, basketball and tennis courts, and age-appropriate play equipment. The grounds also feature areas for outdoor learning and exploration, such as outdoor classrooms, native trees and plants, vegetable gardens and art installations.
Each schoolyard is designed to include special gardens, permeable surfaces and other landscape features that absorb large amounts of water, which help reduce neighborhood flooding.