Trust for Public Land Celebrates Opening of Newly Renovated Schoolyard at Lowell Elementary

Today, Trust for Public Land (TPL), the School District of Philadelphia, the City of Philadelphia, and the Sixers Youth Foundation are celebrating the opening of a newly renovated community schoolyard at James R. Lowell Elementary School in Olney. 

“Lowell is part of a dynamic, diverse community in Olney, but for years students have not had separate spaces for recess and lunch,” said Owen Franklin, Pennsylvania State Director for Trust for Public Land. “This new Community Schoolyard will give students a place to learn and play and give parents and neighbors a space to connect to each other, find common ground, and support their school and one another.” 

Lowell Elementary serves 524 students in grades Kindergarten to four. Nearly 4,500 children live within a 10-minute walk of the school, making this space crucial for increasing access to the outdoors. 

“We know that high quality outdoor spaces are crucial to any school,” said superintendent of schools for the School District of Philadelphia, William Hite. “These spaces enable teachers to educate on a variety of topics in a dynamic outdoor setting, they enable students to build team building skills through play, and they help students return from recess ready to learn. Every student deserves this.” 

Students and residents played a role in designing a new outdoor space that will benefit the entire community. TPL conducted community design sessions with Olney Culture Lab who led artistic exercises to spark the imaginations of the community while designing the space. Olney Culture Lab documented the process and produced a video about the work, linked here

“The students were so excited to be part of the design when it came to making the new schoolyard and now, they will get to enjoy what they worked so hard to create,” said Lowell principal Chantal Barr. “This really means something to them. Neighbors, parents, teachers, everyone can’t wait to get out there.” 

Thanks to a partnership with the Philadelphia Water Department, the new schoolyard was designed with the best stormwater management practices. Depaving and porous materials enable the schoolyard to absorb stormwater, preventing runoff. 

“It is critical to support our schools in every way possible to best serve students, families, and communities,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “The City is proud to partner with Trust for Public Land to leverage public and private resources to yield meaningful collective impact.” 

Community Schoolyards projects have the potential to help shrink the park equity divide. TPL’s data analysis reveals that in the 100 largest U.S. cities, neighborhoods where residents predominantly identify as people of color have access to an average of 44 percent less park acreage than predominantly white neighborhoods. A similar pattern emerges in low-income versus high-income communities.   

Nationwide, less than 1% of schoolyards are opened to the public outside school hours and designed with the green space and play features that communities need and deserve. Transforming schoolyards makes a life-changing difference for students and their families. Trust for Public Land is working with communities across Philadelphia and the country to create green schoolyards where neighbors can come together to play, socialize, exercise and learn. 

“At the Sixers Youth Foundation, we’re committed to serving Philadelphia’s youth and using the power of sports to bring communities together,” said Marjorie Harris, Chair of the Sixers Youth Foundation. “We are honored to partner with Trust for Public Land, the City of Philadelphia and the School District of Philadelphia to bring this community a safe place where youth can play, learn and cultivate lifelong relationships. We look forward to building two new schoolyards in the coming year and continuing our commitment to this city along with Trust for Public Land.” 

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 it is needed most. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 3 million acres of public land, created more than 5,000 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $84 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected more than 9 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit