Water Equity Clearinghouse

Healthy Schools Campaign

Chicago, IL

The Healthy Schools Campaign is a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that all children have access to a healthy school environment where they can learn and thrive. The organization addresses the fact that one in four students live with a chronic disease, which hinders their ability to learn and grow into healthy adults. Healthy Schools Campaign also recognizes that children from low-income communities and communities of color face much higher rates of risk for these illnesses than their peers.

Efforts to Advance Water Equity

The Healthy Schools Campaign partners with Openlands, a conservation organization, to produce the Space to Grow project. This program is a unique effort to turn schoolyards into beautiful spaces that can function as opportunities for play, learning, gardening, and enjoyment of the outdoors. 

The yards and landscape features are also specially designed to help reduce neighborhood flooding. These green infrastructure installations improve quality of life for residents who are subjected to chronic flooding from overtaxed drainage systems.

Outdoor recreation elements include turf fields, jogging tracks, basketball and tennis courts, and play equipment for children of all ages. There are also outdoor classrooms with native trees and plants, vegetable gardens, and art installations.

The project is made possible by a partnership with the Chicago Department of Water Management, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, and Chicago Public Schools, which provide the necessary capital funds and leadership expertise to implement these projects.

Each Space to Grow site is the result of an inclusive planning process in which school staff, students, and community members come together to create a unique and personal vision for their schoolyard. The schoolyards are thus a reflection of the specific needs and ideas of the community. Space to Grow continues to support the schools after the schoolyards are remodeled to help them maintain, enhance and maximize the educational benefits of their schoolyards.

Geographic Scale:
Type of Organization:
Nonprofit Entity
Pillar 2
Approach to Advancing Water Equity:
Community Organizing
Direct Service