The importance of outdoor activity and play was highlighted when many indoor activities were off limits for a time in the last few years. Many of us remembered that with the right jacket and pair of shoes, we can still get outside to move even on the most blustery Tacoma day. But, we all know that kids never recognize the cold weather anyway. Mud puddles are made for jumping and swinging in the rain is an easy way to start a giggling fit.
Studies show that outdoor parks made for play offer significant benefits, such as enhanced mental and physical health, community cohesion, and protection from environmental impacts like heat and water runoff. We can see correlations between better attendance, behavior, and test scores when outdoor play spaces are present and active near schools. All of these benefits are maximized when individuals have a park within a 10 minute walk of their home. Yet for 60,000 Tacoma residents, that reality is out of reach.
The Trust for Public Lands approached Tacoma Public Schools and Metro Parks Tacoma for a partnership idea that might solve the challenge; work together to renovate and maintain outdated play spaces at local schools, then partner to maintain those spaces for public use outside of the school day. Leveraging each organization’s expertise, we can work together to get more children and families outside to play and build community so that we all have a chance to live the healthiest life possible.
Using several community assessment tools, like the City of Tacoma’s Equity Index map, five school locations were chosen to maximize this partnership and opportunity. Children and parents at each school will be engaged in a design process for the play spaces. “Dream big,” they encourage. What would you like to see here? Then community members get to add in, “what else would you like to see, what did we miss?” With community input and participation in the design, and partners working together to oversee the construction process and ongoing maintenance needs, more than 25,000 residents will soon have brand new, community designed, play spaces for school and out-of-school use within 10 minutes of their home. When complete, Tacoma will have five new Green Schoolyards.
The Ben B. Cheney Foundation is proud to partner with Trust for Public Lands, Tacoma Public Schools, and Metro Parks Tacoma to help support these new community play spaces. To learn more and see how they are coming along, visit tpl.org/our-work/tacoma-green-schoolyards.