How TreePeople is Greening Schoolyards

In the preface to Claire Latané’s Schools That Heal, she reminds us that “It is hard to make healthy schools. Even in neighborhoods that have plenty of resources, most school environments fall short of supporting students’ mental and physical health and well-being.”

TreePeople’s School Greening initiative aims to collaborate with school communities to reimagine how largely-asphalt-covered schoolyards can provide students and teachers with healthy, shaded, natural learning and play spaces.

Through a competitive process, TreePeople’s grant team helped our Green Infrastructure department secure a historic level of funding to transform 17 schools across three school districts: Los Angeles Unified School District, Lynwood School District, and Hacienda La Puente Unified School District. Dubbed “Creating Cool Schools in Southern CA” this effort will transform their campuses. Our community engagement approach works with school leaders, parents and guardians, students, faculty, support staff, and the districts to envision healthy schoolyards that reduce the heat island effect, add shade and native plantings, reduce pollution, improve water quality, and add outdoor learning spaces–including reading gardens.

Over the course of the next two and a half years, our Green Infrastructure team will meet with the various members of each school’s community to learn from them about how they use their outdoor space and what they envision for its future. Throughout this process we will partner with the people who know their schools the best, the teachers, administrators, families, and of course students! 

This opportunity would not have been possible without a group lift that includes CAL FIRE, former Senator Bob Hertzberg, former Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, Assembly Member Lisa Calderon, TreePeople’s Policy and Research Team, former TreePeople CEO Cindy Montanez, and dozens of NGO partners who uplifted the funding effort and program.

For information on past projects, you can read about our work greening the schoolyard at Pacoima Middle School.

By Eric Wilson

Green Infrastructure Program Manager