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School Yard Initiative

Arrowhead Elementary School in Aurora, CO.

A school playground can be the closest and safest place to play in a community, but often times the playgrounds are outdated and the equipment is unsafe. Improvements to school playgrounds and outdoor spaces not only create a more engaging and creative environment for students, but they also serve the greater community.

GOCO’s School Yard Initiative (SYI) is a grant program designed to inspire more active physical play and enhance outdoor learning on school grounds. All projects must be designed, in partnership with students and the community. We value equity and this program emphasizes projects that reach  underrepresented youth and families who have limited access to quality parks.

Elementary schools awarded grants can elect to become partner schools in Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Schools and Outdoor Learning Environments program (SOLE). SOLE provides outdoor experiences and teacher training to help students and families connect with nature on-site, and through fourth-grade field trips to nearby natural spaces.


Schools can apply if they partner with an eligible local government, such as a city, county or park and recreation district. 

The majority of successful applicants have free and reduced priced meal rates above 40% and/or propose projects that help overcome significant barriers to youth and families enjoying the outdoors in their communities. We strongly recommend contacting GOCO staff before beginning work on your application to ensure that your project will compete well.

Charter schools should review the application carefully for requirements regarding land ownership. We are working to better support the growing need from charter schools, though short-term leases can present challenges to participation in this grant program. 


Before beginning your application, contact Youth Initiatives Program Officer Erika Meyer at emeyer@goco.org or 303-226-4512 to discuss your project's eligibility.

Download the application below and review the entire document before you start filling it out, paying particular attention to eligibility criteria so you are sure your project meets all requirements. Do not reference or re-use applications from prior grant cycles. 

All applications must be submitted online. To register, visit tinyurl.com/GOCOGranteePortal; to submit an application, use the link included in the current cycle's application form. Be sure to sign up for GOCO email updates to stay up to date on any program changes. Newsletters are released when new applications are posted.

[NOTE 01/03/2020: Unfortunately, GOCO is currently experiencing technical difficulties with its online portal. Instead of submitting your application via the portal as previously instructed, please email applications directly to Erika Meyer at emeyer@goco.org by 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 7. Please combine your documents into a single PDF in this order: signed application summary page, responses to questions, budget, resolution, IGA, signed letter of support from school district, and attachments- which include pictures, maps, conceptual drawings, etc. Contact Erika with any questions at emeyer@goco.org or 303-226-4512.]



  • Match Requirements: The applicant and partner must provide 25% of the total project cost in matching funds. That 25% must include at least 10% in cash while the remaining 15% can be in-kind contributions, cash, or donations.
  • Project Components: Eligible project components can include but are not limited to traditional playgrounds, natural playgrounds, inclusive playgrounds, shade structures, wild zones, outdoor classrooms, and experiential environmental learning components like gardens, bioswales, wetlands, water features, weather stations and  similar items. Sports fields, tracks and other components for organized play are not eligible for SYI funding but can be funded through GOCO's Local Parks and Outdoor Recreation grant program.
  • Public Access: All projects are required to be open to the public during non-school hours.



  • May 1, 2019: Application posted
  • December 6, 2019: Draft applications for initial review due (optional)
  • January 7, 2020: Applications due
  • March 2020: Grants awarded


Contact Erika Meyer at 303.226.4512.