DENVER – Today the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board awarded $831,790 to help build new playgrounds at eight 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.
All SYI-funded school playgrounds serve their entire communities since projects remain open outside of school hours.
The 2019 SYI grants will serve 3,734 students across six counties in Colorado. The eight schools funded have an average free and reduced lunch rate of 62%, well above the state average of 42%. The grants will help replace playgrounds that are, on average, 32 years old and will leverage more than $2.2 million in local matching funding.
The 2019 SYI grants are as follows:
North Arvada Middle School Obstacle Course Park, $110,000 grant to the City of Arvada in partnership with North Arvada Middle School
North Arvada Middle School will use GOCO funds to build an outdoor obstacle course on school grounds. Before the recent addition of a community garden, the only outdoor amenities at the school were a basketball court, gravel track, and two four-square courts. North Arvada offers no school-sponsored sports teams, so the obstacle course will provide needed outdoor play opportunities for students.
Bessemer Academy Play Yard Initiative, $110,000 grant to the City of Pueblo in partnership with Bessemer Academy
Bessemer Academy will invest its GOCO funds into building the school’s first playground in its 135-year history. The playground will be universally accessible in order to welcome students and people of all abilities, making it the first of its kind in the area. Outside of school hours, members of the public will be able to use the playground, making it an asset to both the school and the community as a whole.
Explore Elementary Outdoor Learning Space, $108,760 grant to the City of Thornton in partnership with Explore Elementary
Explore Elementary will use its SYI grant to build an outdoor space at its new facility, which is currently being built. This playground will be the first of its kind for the school and the surrounding community. The school’s current playground, and all of the playgrounds in the Mapleton area, provide limited opportunity for unstructured play. Members of the public will have access to the space outside of school hours, and other schools in the area plan to utilize the outdoor classroom.
Oak Grove Elementary Playground Improvement, $110,000 grant to Montrose County in partnership with Oak Grove Elementary
Oak Grove Elementary’s playground equipment is decades-old, difficult to access, and considered unsafe. Using its SYI grant, the school will replace its old playground with a new, universally-accessible play area and outdoor learning space, welcoming children of all abilities. The goal of the project is to create a natural space where all students and community members are inspired to play, explore, and learn outside.
Ouray School Playground Renovation, $110,000 grant to the Town of Ouray in partnership with Ouray School
GOCO funds will be invested in upgrading the school’s current playground, which is nearly 30 years old. The existing playground equipment is outdated, considered unsafe, and not accessible to students with disabilities. Funds will also help build a new outdoor learning area within the play yard. Planned features include swings (including an ADA-accessible bucket swing), blacktop for games like four square, a gaga pit, an artificial turf open play field, a quiet nature zone with shade structures, and a freestanding outdoor classroom and stage.
Nisley Playground Project, $110,000 grant to the City of Grand Junction in partnership with Nisley Elementary
Nisley Elementary will invest its GOCO funding in replacing the outdated playground, which has not seen significant updates since the school’s opening in 1958. The new playground will be equipped with a universally-accessible play and learning area. Several of Nisley’s students are not able to use the current playground due to its lack of accessibility for people with physical limitations. Planned features include a swingset, slides, a climbing structure, sensory panels, and fitness stations. The school yard will also include an area for outdoor learning with painted maps of the United States and Colorado; native trees and plants; and quiet, shaded areas for reading and studying.
RFMA Outdoor School Yard, $110,000 grant to Adams County in partnership with Ricardo Flores Magon Academy
Ricardo Flores Magon Academy is in the process of building a new school, scheduled to open in Fall 2020. Currently, the academy is operating at the site of Berkeley Gardens Elementary School, which was built in 1906 and is in need of significant repairs. The school will use GOCO funds for a play yard at the new building, which will serve the academy’s students as well as the community as a whole. Planned features include traditional playground equipment, a multi-purpose play field, a soccer pitch, a basketball court, nature play structures, and an outdoor classroom.
Warren Tech Outdoor and Environmental Education Classroom, $63,030 grant to the City of Lakewood in partnership with Warren Technical High School
Warren Technical High School will use its SYI funding to expand on an existing outdoor education center. Warren Tech provides students with the opportunity to learn trades and earn college credit while still in high school, and many of its programs have an outdoor learning focus. This expansion will give students more opportunities to develop career-building skills outside.
Planned features for the expansion include an outdoor kitchen, walking trail with native plants and educational signage, a chicken coop, and a shaded picnic area. Students will use these spaces as part of classroom activities and during recreation time, and members of the public will have access to certain spaces outside of school hours.
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 all 64 counties of Colorado without any tax dollar support. Visit GOCO.org for more information.