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Collaboration for Green Schools Earns “Space to Grow” National Award

Chicago Public Schools, City of Chicago, Healthy Schools Campaign, MWRD, and Openlands partnership earns honors.

Lombard, IL, April 15, 2016 --( An innovative public-private partnership between City government and several non-profit organizations working to transform Chicago schoolyards into vibrant green spaces has been named one of 11 award winners representing the best environmental efforts in schools across the country.

The Space to Grow program which strives to deliver green spaces on Chicago school grounds, received the 2016 Best of Green Schools Award for Collaboration by the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) in collaboration with the Green Schools National Network (GSNN). Space to Grow partners were in attendance to receive the award at the Green Schools Conference and Expo in Pittsburgh, PA on March 31.

Space to Grow provides students and their communities with opportunities for physical activity, outdoor learning, environmental literacy, and engagement with art, while addressing neighborhood flooding issues. The pilot program, launched in 2013, helps connect families and communities with their local schools by engaging community members in the schoolyard design and implementation process, and by providing much needed green space in urban neighborhoods.

Four Chicago elementary schools selected for the renovation program were designed by Conservation Design Forum, a leading multidisciplinary firm with expertise in integrative landscape architecture and green infrastructure design.

The schoolyards designed by CDF feature permeable playground and sports court surfaces, rain gardens, native plants for bird and insect habitat, community garden spaces, permeable parking lots, along with colorful play equipment and interpretive signage that explains how green infrastructure works. "CDF was a natural fit for the Space to Grow projects,” says Jason Cooper, principal landscape architect on the projects. “The partners that assembled to transform these bleak schoolyards into healthy learning environments made innovative water-based design a priority. Our staff takes great pride in the project's mission and its outcome. I only hope that it will become a model for others to follow.”

The 2016 Best of Green Schools Award recognized 11 individuals, institutions, projects, and events representing the best environmental efforts in schools across the country, and highlights the national leaders and innovators in school sustainability for the year.

"This year's honorees are making huge strides in their schools and communities," said Rachel Gutter, director of the Center for Green Schools at USGBC. "Each recipient is an inspiring example of innovation and passion in pursuit of schools that educate a generation of sustainability natives – students prepared to take the lead in the 21st century. Becoming a green school is a journey, not a destination; through their work, the leaders behind this inspiring work are blazing new trails in this movement to transform all schools into healthy, safe and inspired places for learning."

To learn more about the green schoolyard projects and to see additional photos, visit the Conservation Design Forum website at:'s%20Sustainable%20Campus%20&%20Playground%20Renewal
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