Space to Grow®


Space to Grow is a win for students, neighborhoods, and our city’s environment.

Space to Grow® transforms Chicago schoolyards into vibrant spaces to play, learn, and be outside.

No one knows what a community needs better than the people who live, work, and play there. Green schoolyards are not only used as outdoor classrooms and spaces for kids to run and play, but they also serve as community parks outside of school hours. Healthy Schools Campaign and Openlands are excited to share some Space to Grow resources that others can use to help amplify the national green schoolyards movement.

Boosting Physical Activity and Wellness

Space to Grow schoolyards provide healthy, engaging places for students to be physically active before, during and after school. Each schoolyard includes spaces for physical activity, such as turf fields, jogging tracks, basketball and tennis courts, and play equipment for all ages. Space to Grow schoolyards provide space and equipment that empower school leaders to put positive new CPS policies for recess and PE into practice.

Supporting Learning

The schoolyards serve as a brilliant extension of the classroom for lessons ranging from science experiments to nutrition education. The grounds feature areas for learning and exploration, such as outdoor classrooms, native trees and plants and vegetable gardens. Plus, the boost in energy and focus that students get from running and playing outside helps improve behavior and academic performance in the classroom.

Improving Stormwater Management and Reducing Neighborhood Flooding

With more than 760 acres of impermeable surface in a highly urbanized area, Chicago Public Schools schoolyards present a significant opportunity for changing the way stormwater is managed in Chicago. All Space to Grow schoolyards include special materials, surfaces and techniques that capture significant amounts of rain, which is especially helpful during heavy storms. These include rain gardens, native plantings and gardens, permeable asphalt, permeable pavers, water storage under parking lots and turf fields, permeable rubber play surfaces and much more. Signage in each schoolyard interprets the green infrastructure process and its value for the school community.

Engaging Communities with Local Schools

The Space to Grow process engages parents and community members in developing the schoolyard design. Parents and community members are invited to be part of ribbon-cutting ceremonies, planting days, workshops and ongoing events. Space to Grow also engages parent leaders at each school and connects teachers with professional development. Plus, the schoolyards provide a welcoming space for community activity. A shared space in nature where people can sit, relax, play, exercise or gather with friends and family has immense benefits to the fabric of a community. It fosters social interaction, provides a sense of connection and helps boost health and well-being.

Space to Grow is bringing these benefits to Chicago neighborhoods through a unique partnership and community-focused process that’s garnering attention from across the nation. 

Meet Our Expert Staff

Director of Education
Green Schoolyards Program Manager
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