Manager of Green Schoolyards

The long-term goal of Openlands Green Schoolyards is to build and sustain environments conducive to outdoor learning and advance the school community’s connection to nature and the outdoors. The Manager is responsible for leading Openlands part of the Space to Grow (STG) program and coordinating Openlands’ overall vision for youth, teacher, and community education. The Manager ensures holistic planning, design, and maintenance of schoolyards programs either through direct implementation or with partner organizations. The STG program is a partnership with Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC) to build award winning and internationally recognized green schoolyards in Chicago. This position is not only an essential manager of Openlands’ work and internal staff, but also a champion of the Space to Grow program internally and with external partners.

This is a full-time position and requires flexibility with weekend and evening work. This position reports to the Vice President of Community Conservation.

Essential Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Lead implementation of Openlands’ Space to Grow program work in coordination with Healthy Schools Campaign, Openlands’ STG managing partner. Manage Openlands staff supporting STG and coordinate with Openlands Manager of Education on strategy for school community engagement, program activities, and education workshops.
    • Lead school community planning and education at STG schools including workshops on stormwater management and green infrastructure, nature-based outdoor education, and garden education.
    • Co-design and facilitate school community planning process, workshops, program activities, school garden and school community engagement strategies and needs.
    • Capture internal and shared monthly metrics and evaluate effectiveness of programs and their delivery.
    • Represent Openlands and deliver presentations to promote the STG model at educational functions and engage with national practitioners.
    • Support program development and fundraising; assist with writing grant proposals, reports, and engage with donors.
    • In coordination with STG Senior Manager, develop annual STG budget and reporting; track, review, and approve Openlands’ expenses for shared reporting.
  • Ensure holistic planning, design, and maintenance of schoolyards program through direct implementation, coordinating with other Openlands programs, or by working with partner organizations.
  • Represent the school-community interest in the design process; provide direction on design elements at partner design meetings and construction meetings.
  • Create and maintain relationships with other nature and education-based institutions for partnerships, best practices and information sharing on school gardens, place-based education, and teacher education. Maintain knowledge of best practices for green schoolyards and evolving the program to ensure success.
  • Facilitate long-term site establishment and maintenance of green schoolyards with Chicago Public Schools.
  • Coordinate with Community Conservation team members, including Manager of Education, Outreach Coordinator and VP of Community Conservation, to advance Openlands’ mission to connect people to nature.
    • Develop strategy for schoolyard upkeep and garden team engagement.
    • Incorporate Space to Grow schools into Openlands’ youth education and teachers training programs to sustain the use of the green schoolyard.
    • Facilitate workshops, garden work days, and events.
    • Coordinate and co-lead stewardship days at schools.
    • Update program guides and materials
  • Other duties as assigned

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities:

  • Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent in Natural Resource Management, Urban Planning, or a design profession including Landscape Architecture or Architecture
  • Strong project management skills and experience managing team members
  • Strong facilitation skills
  • Very strong interpersonal skills and demonstrated experience effectively working at the community level with a diverse set of partners and stakeholders
  • Ability to work with teachers, administrators, parents, and community members as well as all youth age levels, indoors and outside
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office, Google Suite and Apps. Familiarity with Trello or a similar workflow tool is a plus
  • Knowledge of or experience in adult learning theory and practice
  • Experience or familiarity with youth engagement or youth education
  • Understanding of or experience in working in a formal education/school environment.
  • Experience in environmental or natural resources conservation and field work, with knowledge of edible and native gardens and/or green infrastructure and stormwater education
  • Knowledge of Chicago, valid Illinois driver’s license maintained through the duration of employment, and reliable transportation is required
  • Must be able to lift approximately 25 lbs. and work outside in various weather conditions
  • Must be willing to participate in and pass a background check
  • Preferred skill: Familiarity with landscape plans, design processes and/or construction documents.
  • Preferred skill: Fluent Spanish, Mandarin, or Polish; speaking and writing.

Openlands is an equal opportunity employer and seeks to employ qualified individuals based on individual merit. Openlands does not discriminate against any individual with respect to the terms and conditions of employment based on that individual’s race, sex, age, religion, color, national origin, disability, genetic information, marital status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, housing status, or any other non-merit factor protected under state, local or federal laws. Equal Employment Opportunity applies to all personnel actions such as recruiting, hiring, compensation, benefits, promotions, training, transfer, termination, and opportunities for training. Openlands is committed to a fair and equitable workplace where everyone is a respected and valued member of the team.

To Apply:

This position is open until filled. Interested applicants should send a resume and cover letter explaining why your skills and experience would complement this position to   Please include “Manager of Green Schoolyards” in the subject line.

Please note that applications without a cover letter will not be considered.

Work Environment

  • Loop office is ADA accessible.
  • This role routinely uses standard office equipment such as computers, phones, and scanners. Employee is regularly required to talk, hear, see, and communicate effectively via computer.
  • Smoke- and drug-free environment


  • Salary range is market competitive. Benefits include health, life, and disability coverage, a 403(b)-retirement plan, paid holidays and vacation time. This is a full time position.
  • Openlands is an Equal Opportunity Employer.

About Openlands 

Openlands protects the natural and open spaces of northeastern Illinois and the surrounding region to ensure cleaner air and water, protect natural habitats and wildlife, and help balance and enrich our lives. Openlands’ vision for the region is a landscape that includes a vast network of land and water trails, tree-lined streets, and intimate public gardens within easy reach of every city dweller. It also includes parks and preserves big enough to provide natural habitat and to give visitors a sense of the vast prairies, woodlands, and wetlands that were here before the cities. In sum, Openlands believes that protected open space is critical for the quality of life of our region.

About Space to Grow

Space to Grow: Greening Chicago Schoolyards is an innovative partnership led by Openlands and Healthy Schools Campaign to transform Chicago schoolyards into vibrant spaces to play, learn, and be outside, while helping neighborhoods to reduce urban flooding. Space to Grow uses a unique model that brings together multiple partners from regional agencies to local organizations and neighbors to help build stewardship, provide more opportunities for active play and physical education, outdoor learning and environmental literacy, and educate the community about the benefits of the school design while encouraging them to implement water management initiatives at home.