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Simple school upgrade sparks vast academic improvement by students: 'We've seen schools have suspensions drop down to zero'

Since reopening the new space, school administrators noticed improvements in students' academic performance and attendance.

Anderson School playground show a spectacular transformation

Photo Credit: iStock

A Philadelphia playground has been completely transformed after receiving a major glow-up led by its students. 

The schoolyard at Add B. Anderson School in West Philadelphia was once just crumbling asphalt and a trash can basketball hoop. 

Driven by a third-grade class, the schoolyard has since been upgraded to a community green space with rain gardens, a running track, picnic tables, new play equipment, and a real basketball court.

This incredible renovation was achieved through the work of the students partnering with organizations, including the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit working to make outdoor spaces accessible to everyone.

Conceptualized as a class project six years ago, the students weathered many challenges, including pandemic delays, to bring their vision to life. The kids took charge, choosing the equipment and surveying neighbors to gain input on potential project designs. 

The entire community can now enjoy a safe and welcoming place to play, exercise, and relax.

Photo Credit: Trust for Public Land

Benefits of green space

Access to green spaces is crucial to our well-being. The National Institutes of Health has highlighted research showing how green spaces benefit both people's physical and mental health. 

Proximity to parks is associated with physical activity levels, while access to green space correlates with positive mental health outcomes and provides more opportunities for social interaction.

The benefits of spending time outdoors can be enjoyed from infancy through adulthood and significantly enhance childhood development, including academic performance, according to UNICEF. 

This project provided additional evidence of this theory. Since opening the new space, Anderson School administrators noticed improvements in students' academic performance and attendance, as NPR reported.

"We're seeing trends in academic performance improvements [and] attendance rates," Danielle Denk, who leads the community school yards initiative for the Trust for Public Land, told the outlet in June 2023. "We've seen schools have suspensions drop down to zero after the schoolyard is transformed."

Parks also offer environmental benefits. The two-acre space includes tree plantings and stormwater management systems that will reduce thousands of gallons of runoff, mitigate pollution from heat-trapping gases, and decrease noise levels.

But despite its numerous benefits, access to green space is often unequal, with race and economic status being influential factors in who gets to spend time there. 

With projects like the one at the Anderson School playground, the Trust for Public Land is on a mission to close this gap, providing access to the outdoors and "bring[ing] quality parks to everyone, everywhere … within a 10-minute walk of home."

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