Chiloquin Elementary Green Schoolyard

Chiloquin-ElementaryAt the heart of this work is Art Ochoa, a member of the Klamath Tribe, retired educator, and community organizer for the Chiloquin Elementary Green Schoolyard.Photo credit: The Trust for Public Land Staff

Chiloquin, a rural community in southern Oregon, is the capital of the Klamath Nation. Chiloquin was named for a Chief whose descendant, Edison Chiloquin, retained land for his family during the period of Tribal termination. Despite this historical dispossession, members of the Klamath Tribes hold enduring ties to the region’s land. Today, a third of Chiloquin residents identify as Native American.
 
Residents of Chiloquin have a strong sense of community, but few public places to come together. If you walked by the Chiloquin Elementary Schoolyard today, you might not see what students of Chiloquin Elementary identified right away. Today, the playfields are overgrown and the schoolyard stands largely vacant with few opportunities for the adventurous and dynamic play of childhood.
 
Fortunately, the children of Chiloquin know best. When the Native Nutrition and Fitness Project asked the children of Chiloquin to identify places with transformational potential, the children pointed to their schoolyard. The Trust for Public Land is now working with the Tribal Council, elementary school teachers, and residents of Chiloquin to develop and implement the community’s vision for a vibrant, green, and welcoming schoolyard. Thanks to action by the school board, the revitalized schoolyard will be open to the community after school and on the weekends. The green schoolyard will serve both as the dynamic playground children envisioned and as a gathering place for the community.
 
We know that play is important for children. And research tells us that outdoor play can enhance physical and mental health, strengthen social skills, and improve educational outcomes. The revitalized green schoolyard at Chiloquin Elementary will help address longstanding health inequity in the region. And the community-led design process, will help to ensure that the new schoolyard truly belongs to the people of Chiloquin.
 
Across the country, The Trust for Public Land is working with communities to create green schoolyards that reflect local priorities, bolster health, strengthen community, and increase climate resilience. Revitalizing schoolyards and unlocking the gates for community use represents transformational potential nationwide. Action begins in communities like Chiloquin where children deploy their creativity to design a new reality for play and a fortified vision for community.