It Takes a Village to Plant a Schoolyard

September 25, 2014 | Written By:

It Takes a Village to Plant a Schoolyard

Space to Grow is an innovative partnership led by Healthy Schools Campaign and Openlands to transform Chicago schoolyards into centers for outdoor learning, play and engagement with nature and art. Designed to capture significant amounts of rainfall, Space to Grow schoolyards have the added benefit of protecting the environment and reducing flooding. Construction began in July at four pilot schools and the schoolyards are scheduled for completion this fall. Space to Grow is made possible by the leadership and generous financial support of Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Department of Water Management and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago.

The mission of Space to Grow is one that we’re proud to say has captured the imagination of many around the city. And we know we can’t accomplish it alone. With construction nearing completion at our four pilot schools, we reached out to organizations that truly believe healthier schools are critical for our kids’ futures to pitch in.

One company, Advocate Children’s Hospital, with campuses in Oak Lawn and Park Ridge, Illinois, stepped up in a big way. Each Space to Grow schoolyard is home to thousands of plants. Soon those plants will inspire science lessons, art lessons and nutrition education. But first, they need to inspire some serious digging. That’s where Advocate comes in.

Advocate is sending professionals from its leadership team, which regularly gives back to communities through health-related projects. Nearly 150 people are coming to plant and mulch at Morrill Elementary on October 7, where they’ll help about 4,500 plants put down new roots.

It will be a day to remember, where colleagues work side-by-side and up to their elbows in dirt. But when all is said and done, a transformed schoolyard will greet Morrill students and local community members, inspiring learning and activity for years to come.

The plantings will build on the great outdoor learning already happening at Morrill.

Principal Michael Beyer said: “We had a community garden installed last year, and our students did a great job weeding and watering. It’s already being integrated into our learning. I’m hopeful but also confident that the new rain garden and additional learning beds will help this grow and expand.”

Space to Grow schoolyards are also designed to absorb rain right where it falls, rather than rushing straight to the sewer system. This benefits the community and the environment by protecting nearby homes from flooding and keeping pollution out of the lake and rivers. There’s a lot to look forward to.

Would you like to join us for a day of planting at a Space to Grow schoolyard? Each Saturday in October, we’re hosting community planting days at our Space to Grow schools.

Saturday, October 4
Schmid Elementary School
9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
9755 S. Greenwood Ave.
Chicago, IL 60628
Register »

Saturday, October 11
Morrill Elementary School
9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
6011 S. Rockwell St.
Chicago, IL 60629
Register »

Saturday, October 18
Grissom Elementary School
9 a.m. – 3 p.m.
12810 S. Escanaba Ave.
Chicago, IL 60633
Register »

Saturday, October 25
Leland Elementary School
9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
512 S. Lavergne Ave.
Chicago, IL 60644
Register »

This fall is only the beginning. In the years to come, we’ll be transforming schoolyards across the city of Chicago. If you’re interested in a corporate partnership, please reach out to Rochelle Davis at or 312-419-1810.

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