New Community Schoolyard Opens at Mary McLeod Bethune School

Today, Trust for Public Land (TPL); North10, Philadelphia; the School District of Philadelphia, and students and staff of Mary McLeod Bethune School are celebrating the opening of the new Community Schoolyard.

Designed and built in partnership with students, staff, and the community at Bethune, this schoolyard is one of TPL’s largest and most impactful in Philadelphia. Using TPL’s signature participatory design process, students collaborated with the school’s neighbors to reimagine the barren, asphalt space. The schoolyard is now a healthy, vibrant space specifically designed to meet the needs of students and their families.

“This new schoolyard was created with and for the community to support mental and physical health for students and families,” said Owen Franklin, Vice President for the Great Lakes Region and Pennsylvania State Director for Trust for Public Land. “Access to green space is critical to healthy, vibrant neighborhoods and TPL is thrilled to have worked with Bethune on this beautiful resource.”

“We are grateful for the investment in our school communities,” said Tony B. Watlington, Sr., Ed.D., superintendent for the School District of Philadelphia. “Thanks to the collaboration with our partners and community, our Bethune students and their families now have an inclusive, welcoming outdoor space to enjoy recess and outdoor educational activities that we know are crucial to their mental health and wellbeing.”

In addition to a turf field, basketball court, running track, outdoor classroom, and play area, the Bethune Schoolyard is also designed to capture stormwater runoff from the schoolyard and surrounding streets into rain gardens and subsurface storage.

The schoolyard will serve as an educational tool for students, advancing outdoor learning and climate resiliency through green stormwater management. Bethune is designed to capture runoff from the schoolyard and surrounding streets into rain gardens and subsurface storage.

“Our collaboration with the School District and the Trust for Public Land is always special because it means bringing the benefits of green infrastructure to local youth,” says Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner Randy E. Hayman, Esq. “Along with protecting our waterways and further beautifying Bethune’s schoolyard, we’re turning teachers and students into watershed stewards through our Fairmount Water Works’ curriculum. Together, we’re planning for a cleaner, greener future.”

“We reclaim this space for our children. We charge the atmosphere with the joy that comes even during difficult times. We reclaim love and community because our children are with it. Today and everyday we put the needs of the children and elders before our own. We honor the past by helping to build a better future,” said Bethune Principal Aliya Catanch-Bradley.

Parks are essential for healthy, equitable communities. Almost 20 million people across the country without park access, including kids and their families, live within a 10-minute walk of a public school. Transforming spaces like schoolyards into community parks is a common sense solution to connecting more people to the outdoors.

“The transformation of the Mary McLeod Bethune schoolyard was an incredible team effort and the beautiful result is the culmination of years of hard work,” said Josh Klaris, Executive Director of North10, Philadelphia. “Every child deserves a safe, fun place to play and gather in community, both during and around school hours. Together we have created such a place. North10 is proud to have played its part in this project and will continue on our mission to create the conditions that help all our kids in Hunting Park-East Tioga thrive.”

The school is named for Mary McLeod Bethune, one of the most important Black educators, civil and women’s rights leaders and government officials of the twentieth century. The first person in her family born free and the first person in her family afforded a formal education, Bethune established a school for African American girls, known today as Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida, and served as an advisor to four American presidents fighting for civil, women’s, and human rights. The schoolyard will feature a custom commissioned mural to honor Bethune and her contributions to achieving racial and gender equality.

With help from partners and supporters, TPL is proud to celebrate Bethune as the organization’s 300th Community Schoolyards® project. TPL continues to lead the movement to transform our nation’s asphalt playgrounds into vibrant green spaces that are improving student education outcomes and community health and climate resiliency.

About Trust for Public Land

Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. As a leader in equitable access to the outdoors, TPL works with communities to create parks and protect public land where they are needed most. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 4 million acres of public land, created more than 5,420 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $94 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected nearly 9.7 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit

About the Philadelphia Water Department

The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) supplies drinking water and provides wastewater and stormwater services to customers within the City of Philadelphia. The Department also has one wholesale water contract and 10 wholesale wastewater contracts with entities outside the City. Learn more at