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Philadelphia schoolyard trades blacktop for greenery and becomes a community resource

What had been a blank expanse of asphalt adjacent to Lowell Elementary School in Philadelphia is now something quite different: a vibrant, colorful schoolyard with green space, a running track, and a jungle gym.

Kids have a remarkable ability to find joy even in unwelcoming environments, but they—and their communities—shouldn’t have to. The Trust for Public Land seeks to tap the unrealized potential of urban schoolyards with interventions that transform them into inspiring community hubs and kid-friendly places for play.

The reimagined space at Lowell Elementary, recently officially inaugurated, was designed in direct collaboration with students at the school and neighborhood residents. It will be a resource not only for the school’s 800 students, but for the 15,000 people who live within a 10-minute walk in Olney, one of Philadelphia’s most densely populated neighborhoods.

The Trust for Public Land knows that upgrading from asphalt to tree-lined spaces with purpose-built play amenities can bring students and the local community benefits in academic and health outcomes, while also contributing to climate resilience in a warming world.

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), which supported the transformation of the schoolyards at Lowell Elementary and three other Philadelphia schools, seeks to help create and activate public space, including one of the largest green spaces in Athens at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center and the city’s schools, which have been transformed into pop-up community centers through the Open Schools program.

Learn more about SNF support for vibrant public space.