Space to Grow Receives National Fitness Award

  • March 5, 2015
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Space to Grow won a national award last week.

Space to Grow is transforming schoolyards in Chicago, and the ideas fostered by this program are planting seeds across the country as well.

Last week, on behalf of Space to Grow, Healthy Schools Campaign president and CEO Rochelle Davis accepted the Champions Award at the 2015 National Physical Activity Plan Congress in Washington, D.C. The award shines a national spotlight on those who have made a significant commitment to adopting National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) strategies and have shown progress toward improving physical activity. Space to Grow is one of three winners nationwide.

“It’s an incredible honor for Space to Grow to be recognized by the National Physical Activity Plan for the positive impact the program has had in transforming Chicago schoolyards into much-needed outdoor spaces for children and their families to play and be active,” said Davis. “We understand the importance of outdoor play and physical activity not only in creating healthier schools, but in building stronger communities.”

HSC co-manages Space to Grow with Openlands, a Chicago-based conservation organization. With capital funding and leadership from Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Department of Water Management, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, the  program seeks to transform Chicago’s outdated — and in many cases, crumbling — schoolyards into vibrant outdoor spaces that benefit students, community members and the environment. These community assets have the added benefit of conserving water and helping reduce neighborhood flooding.

In 2014, four Chicago schools underwent Space to Grow schoolyard transformations. In 2015, we’re taking on more! Renovations include tearing up large sections of asphalt and replacing them with multiuse space for physical activity, such as athletic fields, jogging tracks, basketball and tennis courts, and play equipment. Each schoolyard was designed to include special surfaces and landscape features, such as rain gardens, that absorb large amounts of water, which will result in less flooding in surrounding neighborhoods.

Space to Grow is being recognized at home, too. In March, Space to Grow will receive the Sustainability award from the Illinois Association for Floodplain and Stormwater Management (IAFSM), which recognizes excellence in stormwater management across the state of Illinois. And last fall, Space to Grow won a Silver Ribbon Award from Friends of the Chicago River for its creative approach to river sensitive design and implementation.

As we continue to bring the benefits of Space to Grow to more Chicago schools and neighborhoods, we hope this national and statewide recognition inspires others to find unique ways to invest in schools and strengthen communities.