DENVER - Today the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board awarded $517,885 to help build new playgrounds and outdoor spaces at five Colorado schools. 

The grants are part of GOCO’s School Yard Initiative (SYI). Schools apply in partnership with their local governments for funding to build outdoor spaces where kids enjoy unstructured play and outdoor learning. All school yards must be designed, in part, by students. 

Funded elementary 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. 

The five funded projects, which were selected from a pool of 17 applications, will impact more than 2,500 students and leverage more than $769,000 in local matching funds. Trends among selected projects include improved access, especially for those with mobility issues; recreation opportunities for older students; emphasis on mental and emotional wellbeing; and strong student engagement during the planning process. 

Grant details are as follows:

Animas Valley Elementary Playground, $110,000 grant to La Plata County

Animas Valley Elementary will implement phase two of its playground project, which includes replacing outdated playground equipment and improving the yard’s layout. The nature-inspired play area will feature earth-toned equipment, including ADA-accessible swings, spin pods, a spider climbing net, roller table, and sensory fixtures. The new equipment will be placed in a way that creates a larger play zone and improves sight lines for teachers and staff. Aspen trees will be planted around the perimeter of the playground, and an ADA-accessible ramp will be installed. 

Arvada High School Learning Garden, $81,245 grant to City of Arvada

Arvada High School, with the help of nonprofit organization Big Green, will use GOCO funding to build a 2,000-square-foot learning garden to facilitate and support outdoor education programming. Students and community members provided design ideas for the project, which includes the expansion of the current pollinator garden and the addition of walking paths, including one that is ADA-accessible; garden beds; and a water feature. The learning garden will aim to attract bird and bee species and will feature modular beds and a drip irrigation system to allow for an easy-to-manage outdoor classroom while maximizing space for high yields. 

Atlas Prep 5-12, $106,640 grant to City of Colorado Springs

Atlas Preparatory School will use its SYI grant to develop Gryphon Park, a school yard at the future site of Atlas Elementary School. Project plans include the development of a playground, walking trail, and shade structures. The park’s new amenities will provide Atlas Elementary School’s incoming pre-K through fourth grade students with an age-appropriate play space, a designated area for outdoor learning, and safer access to the park from school grounds. Current and future students, their families, and various community members were engaged in the park’s input and design process.

Kullerstrand Elementary School Playground, $110,000 grant to City of Wheat Ridge

Kullerstrand Elementary will redesign its outdated playground into a nature-inspired playspace that includes an ADA-accessible swinging bay, a sensory dome, climbing features, and enhanced play equipment for children of all ages and abilities. Additional shade structures, including trees and hedges, are included in the design, as are new bike racks, tables, and trash receptacles. Log benches and picnic tables will be installed adjacent to the playground to facilitate outdoor learning opportunities and to support Kullerstrand’s robust enrichment programs. Finally, three new basketball hoops will replace the school’s old metal hoops, and the four square and hopscotch areas will be repainted.

Manaugh Elementary School, $110,000 grant to Montezuma County

Manaugh Elementary School, in partnership with Montezuma County, will use its SYI grant to enhance its outdoor spaces, replace outdated playground equipment, and improve ADA access. The school’s youth task force identified several opportunities to transform the play area into an engaging and dynamic setting. Phase one of the improvements include an expanded lawn area for play, an ADA-accessible fitness trail, new benches and shade structures, and new asphalt for the basketball and tetherball courts. 

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 5,200 projects in urban and rural areas in all 64 counties without any tax dollar support. Visit for more information.