Trust for Public Land, Whittier Elementary School Celebrate Kickoff Design for New Community Schoolyard

Trust for Public Land, in partnership with the City of Scranton, Whittier Elementary School, Scranton School District, and local partners Valley In Motion, have announced the beginning of the design phase for a new Community Schoolyard at the school.

The process kicked off with a celebration at Whittier this morning, launching the participatory design process where students will help create design plans, provide input on playground features, and learn about green infrastructure elements that can help prevent extreme heat and flooding to the site and surrounding neighborhood.

This new, publicly accessible community asset will provide new opportunities to advance stormwater management solutions through Scranton schoolyards, engage dozens of students and residents in a process of hands-on education about their schoolyard and its place in the watershed, and demonstrate to a low-income community of color that they deserve high quality public green spaces.

“One in five Scranton residents do not have access to a park or green space within a 10-minute walk of home, sometimes leaving entire communities lacking the physical and mental health benefits of nature,” said Owen Franklin, Vice President of the Great Lakes Region for Trust for Public Land. “Community voice and vision are central to this project and Trust for Public Land is thrilled to be part of bringing together students and families from Whittier to help create an amazing green space for all to benefit from.”

“Through President Biden’s Rescue Plan, we have been able to create new play spaces for children and families in Scranton,” Mayor Paige G. Cognetti said. “The partnerships we are building with the Scranton School District, Trust for Public Land, and Valley In Motion are making a positive impact in our city, and I’m excited to see what the students of Whittier Elementary plan for their new playground.”

Students will learn about the essential role of green spaces and identifying a design that utilizes trees, gardens, and other green infrastructure to manage stormwater runoff, reduce ambient temperatures, and improve air and water quality.

“This is such an exciting day for the students, faculty, parents and community of Whittier Elementary,” said Andrea Musto, Principal at Whittier Elementary. “This playground is going to give our students a space where they can safely enjoy the outdoors as well as bring the Whittier community together. We are just so grateful that we are partnered with such incredible organizations to make our dream school yard a reality for our school community.”

The schoolyard will serve a critical role in its ability to reduce nutrients and sediments that are otherwise conveyed to nearby Roaring Brook and Lackawanna River within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Another project goal is to improve the neighborhood’s climate resilience and its ability to remain strong and recover more quickly in the face of climate challenges.

At the end of participatory design, students present a final conceptual design that is uniquely equipped to serve the needs, priorities, and qualities of the school and surrounding community.

This project wouldn’t be possible without support from partners Valley In Motion helping to evaluate the design concepts and developing final construction plans.

“Our kids deserve high-quality play spaces,” said Gus Fahey, President, Valley In Motion.

Using TPL’s national community schoolyard prioritization tool, which evaluates water quality, urban heat, mental and physical health, it was determined that the Scranton School District was one that would benefit the most from these renovations.

The Whittier Green Schoolyard will be the second in Scranton, PA, and is part of TPL’s expanded Community Schoolyards program throughout Pennsylvania and the nation. This schoolyard is one of three total planned in South Scranton which will transform the asphalt schoolyard into green space.

Scranton is also one of TPL’s inaugural cohort of U.S. cities that to receive support to address long-standing barriers to outdoor equity through the 10-Minute Walk ® Park Equity Accelerator. The program is the first of its kind, addressing the root causes of park inequities shared by many of the 10-Minute Walk program’s champion cities. The Accelerator will direct resources and provide technical assistance on solving park equity problems through policy change and innovation, with the support of TPL, cross-sector partners, and other experts.

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 5,364 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $93 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected nearly 9.4 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit