Get Insight on Urban Neighborhood Transformation through the Schoolyard Renovation by the Kids: Shots

A year ago, the Add B. Anderson School in West Philadelphia had a schoolyard that was nothing more than bare concrete. But today, it has been transformed into a vibrant green space that benefits the entire community. With the addition of a running track, basketball court, picnic tables, and new play equipment, the schoolyard is now a place where kids can play and exercise. The newly planted trees provide shade, and there are even two rain gardens that prevent storm water from polluting nearby bodies of water.

The renovation of the schoolyard is part of a larger initiative to create more access to green spaces in low-income communities and communities of color. Led by the Trust for the Public Land, this initiative aims to make parks and outdoor spaces accessible to everyone. What sets this initiative apart is that the renovation process is led by the students themselves. At the Anderson School, third graders took charge and designed the new schoolyard, with guidance from adults. This hands-on experience allows the students to have autonomy and voice in the process, which is both empowering and life-changing.

Access to parks and green spaces has been found to be unequal in America, particularly along racial and economic lines. Communities of color and low-income communities have significantly less park space compared to white communities. This disparity is concerning because living near parks and green spaces has numerous physical and mental health benefits. It reduces stress and depression, promotes physical activity, and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and premature death. Green spaces also help cool the surrounding environment and reduce noise pollution.

However, in densely built cities like Philadelphia or New York, finding space to create new parks is challenging. That’s where schoolyards like the one at the Anderson School come in. By transforming existing schoolyards into parks, nature can be introduced into the daily routine of children and their families. Research has shown that green spaces have measurable benefits for kids, including increased physical activity, which can lead to improved academic performance.

At the Anderson School, the students played a crucial role in the redesign of the school grounds. They chose the playground equipment and gathered feedback from teachers, families, and neighbors. They even observed how the old schoolyard was being used to inform their design decisions. The Trust for Public Land, along with several other organizations, supported the renovation project financially, which took five years to complete.

The impact of the revamped schoolyard goes beyond play and physical activity. Studies have shown improvements in academic performance, attendance rates, and decreased disciplinary actions after such transformations. Ongoing research is being conducted to further examine the health and academic effects of schoolyard renovations, with preliminary analysis already demonstrating positive outcomes.

Ultimately, these schoolyard transformations benefit not only the students but the entire community. The greener schoolyards provide a space for exercise, recreation, and community engagement. As more schools across the nation undergo similar transformations, the hope is to create a more equitable distribution of green spaces and improve the overall well-being of communities.

 

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