Hoping to inspire school districts and communities around the U.S. to green up asphalt play spaces — and provide tips and tools for making such improvements — this week, the Philadelphia-based Community Design Collaborative and the Philadelphia Water Department released a 44-page illustrated guide, “Transforming Philadelphia’s Schoolyards.”
Philly’s water agency has been taking the national lead on stormwater management and resilient infrastructure for several years. The department worked with the Collaborative, which provides pro bono design service to nonprofits, on eco-friendly makeovers for 18 schoolyards in the city. The guide shares design concepts and case studies to help schools or neighborhood groups across the U.S. that are considering transformations of such spaces with an eye on the environment and beautification.
The designs are way higher concept — and more fun — than tetherball and swings. One recently renovated elementary schoolyard with a dragon theme includes a rain garden, climbing nets and an amphitheater.
At another school, a change from a lawn (compact soil makes for stormwater runoff) to a meadow created a biodiverse atmosphere that’s more aesthetically interesting and a great learning environment for students. “Transforming Philadelphia’s Schoolyards” has sweet quotes from students. One said of that renovation, “The sound of the crickets makes the meadow sound alive.”
A lawn was turned into a meadow at a Philadelphia school.
Jenn Stanley is a freelance journalist, essayist and independent producer living in Chicago. She has an M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.