DENVER – The Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board awarded $990,000 to nine schools across the state as part of the 2017 School Yard Initiative.
GOCO’s SYI grants help schools, which apply in partnership with their local governments, construct outdoor spaces where kids enjoy unstructured play and outdoor learning. All school yards must be designed, in part, by students to ensure the components constructed are the most appealing and beneficial to the users they will serve.
Funded schools are also eligible to become part of Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Schools and Outdoor Learning Environment (SOLE) program that provides field trips, family nature nights, and outdoor education training for teachers.
All SYI-funded school playgrounds serve their entire communities since projects remain open outside of school hours. Schools that receive this funding are often in underserved communities that lack safe access to quality parks or outdoor places to play.
Now in its fifth year, the 2017 SYI awarded funding to the following projects:
Arickaree School Playground, $110,000 grant to Washington County in partnership with the Arickaree School
Arickaree School, which serves a 638-square-mile area in southeastern Washington County, will invest GOCO funding in a shaded outdoor classroom with picnic tables, a large play structure, a swing set, new basketball hoops, volleyball equipment, blacktop repairs, benches, and fresh landscaping. Outdated and unsafe equipment will be removed, and a new natural play area with boulders, trees, and native grasses will replace a currently bare and uninviting space.
Arrowhead Elementary School Playground Renovation Project, $110,000 grant to the City of Aurora in partnership with Arrowhead Elementary School
Arrowhead Elementary School has envisioned a new outdoor learning and play space to replace the current playground, which is 22 years old, not ADA compliant, and in need of replacement. GOCO funding will help build outdoor teaching and gathering areas, a brightly colored multi-use area for sports and class use, an area for xeriscape and native plants, and ADA-compliant playground equipment.
Crawford Elementary School's Community Playground Renovation Project, $110,000 grant to Adams County in partnership with Crawford Elementary School
Crawford Elementary School will partner with Adams County to invest its $110,000 grant award in reviving its outdoor play space and creating an environment conducive to learning. The school and its playground are a community hub, providing a safe place where students and others in the community can be active and engaged in the outdoors. The new school yard will include a quarter-mile trail, natural climbing and balancing structures, and additional swing sets, and an outdoor classroom will allow teachers to take classes outside for learning in nature.
Edison Park at Venetian Village, $110,000 grant to the City of Colorado Springs in partnership with Edison Elementary School
At Edison Elementary, much of the existing playground equipment is 60 years old and does not meet current safety or ADA compliance standards. GOCO funding will revamp the student-designed playground, which will include new equipment, boulders for climbing, two outdoor learning areas, and a shade structure. The new school yard will be called Edison Park at Venetian Village to honor the city’s heritage of Italian homesteaders.
Forest Green at the Academy for Advanced and Creative Learning, $110,000 grant to the City of Colorado Springs in partnership with the Academy for Advanced and Creative Learning
AcademyACL, a K-8 charter school in central-west Colorado Springs, will put GOCO funding to work transforming its outdated playground into a space for students to play, create, and learn, in a natural setting. The school’s current playground was only designed for students through fifth grade, and many pieces are over 50 years old. The project will build an outdoor classroom, grassy space, small caves, a walking bridge, an elf village created by grassy mounds and shade structures, and a butterfly garden with a quiet seating area.
Orchard Avenue School Yard Initiative, $110,000 grant to the City of Grand Junction in partnership with Orchard Avenue Elementary
The City of Grand Junction partnered with Orchard Avenue Elementary School to replace outdated playground equipment, some of which was installed in 1960, and enhance its garden. None of the existing play areas is ADA compliant, and many of the original structures have either been removed or will soon be removed. GOCO funding will add a learning garden, a rock and mineral garden, a greenhouse, fitness stations, paths, and new play structures.
South Lakewood Elementary School Playground, $110,000 grant to the City of Lakewood in partnership with South Lakewood Elementary School
Serving 520 students in kindergarten through sixth grade, South Lakewood Elementary School is one of Colorado’s leading providers of special education programs. It will invest its GOCO funding in an upgrade of its outdated playground, which currently does not engage students, particularly the increasing number of students with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
New playground components will include a play structure, climbing wall, basketball hoops, walking path, and community garden, as well as an outdoor classroom with shade structures and boulder seating.
The Mancos Elementary Playground Redesign Project, $110,000 grant to the Town of Mancos in partnership with Mancos Elementary School
GOCO funding will help rebuild the playground at Mancos Elementary School; the new playground design was developed with the help of a student task force, which worked closely with the school community and a landscape architect to create a vision. Proposed improvements include digging and water features, boulders, new equipment, and an outdoor classroom along the Mancos River. The project will safely integrate the Mancos River and the adjacent Riverwalk trail into the school campus.
Weldon Valley Preschool Playground Transformation 2017, $110,000 grant to Morgan County in partnership with Weldon Valley Preschool
Weldon Valley Preschool serves three communities—Orchard, Goodrich, and Weldona—with the area’s only playground for preschool-aged children and their families. The playground presents several safety hazards, and the school will invest its GOCO funding in transforming the playground into a natural playscape with outdoor learning centers. New playground components will include an outdoor classroom, new play equipment such as swings and slides, and boulders and other natural materials for climbing.
To date, GOCO’s SYI has invested $3.4 million in building new playgrounds and outdoor learning spaces at 44 schools across the state. Schools and communities interested in applying to future SYI funding opportunities can find more information at GOCO.org/schools.
Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) invests a portion of Colorado Lottery proceeds to help preserve and enhance the state’s parks, trails, wildlife, rivers, and open spaces. GOCO’s independent board awards competitive grants to local governments and land trusts, and makes investments through Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Created when voters approved a Constitutional Amendment in 1992, GOCO has since funded more than 4,900 projects in urban and rural areas in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.