Community Schoolyard Renovation Application
What We’re Doing
Creating a vibrant green space for everyone to enjoy.
Transform Minnesota schoolyards into park-like spaces, designed by the community to improve health, equity, climate, and educational outcomes.
Applications due by June 12
Everyone should have access to a park or outdoor space, yet many Minnesotans don’t have a quality outdoor space within a 10-minute walk of home. The solution to our state’s park equity gap and a tool for community resilience to climate change is sitting in plain sight: Community Schoolyards.
Through our Community Schoolyards™ program, we’re redesigning schoolyards into vibrant, modern parks where children and community members can play, explore, and soak up the benefits of time outside even after school hours.
Wondering how you can bring the benefits of Community Schoolyards to your school district and neighborhood? Apply here!
With funding from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF), TPL can help support your Community Schoolyard project in the 2023-2024 school year. This includes:
- Community engagement and project management support from Trust for Public Land
- The “Student Leader Class” program, which integrates the schoolyard project into the classroom
- Professional landscape design services
- Opportunities for learning and sharing through a network of schoolyard projects and champions
- A guaranteed $150,000 for schoolyard capital improvements
Every school that’s selected will receive a complete roadmap to transform their current playground into their dream schoolyard.
Our Community Schoolyards involve the entire school community—students, neighbors, staff, parents—and focus on community-centered design, meaning that each schoolyard is constructed with intention to create a space that’s welcoming to everyone.
Students play an active role during this robust engagement process by integrating schoolyard design, programming, and leading their community during classroom sessions.
The Student Leader Class is comprised of one or two classes of older students that help champion the schoolyard. We integrate into classroom learning, where students analyze the existing playground, learn about design solutions, lead activities to engage the full student body, and develop a vision for final space.
Students will develop skills and learn about:
- Leadership, collaboration, and compromise
- Community health and equity
- Design processes, site assessment, and budgeting
- Climate change and mitigation strategies
- Habitat, water, urban heat, and trees
- Community involvement and engagement tools
- Careers in landscape design, community leadership, and parks and recreation
No one Community Schoolyard is alike. Each is uniquely designed by the community, for the community and takes into account the site’s history, culture, priorities, and community needs.
TPL can support nature-centered schoolyard projects that improve air and water quality, expand habitat, and provide opportunities for outdoor learning—developing the next-generation of environmental stewards. At this time, school sites are eligible for the following capital improvements:
- Landscaping such as trees, micro-forests, shrubs, bushes, and flowers
- Science and learning gardens
- Nature play
- Outdoor classrooms, learning spaces, and interpretive signage
- Stormwater management such as rain gardens and bioswales
- Limited gathering amenities such as benches and tables
- Be an individual school or school district to apply.
- Ensure that the school is an elementary, junior/middle, or secondary school.
- Obtain written support for the project from the school principal.
- Identify a school site coordinator to oversee the project.
- Keep the schoolyard open to the public after-school hours.
- Integrate the project into classroom learning as a requirement.
- Agree to participate in an evaluation program.
- Attend all cohort meetings as scheduled.
- Agree to take long-term responsibility for maintenance and care of the project.
- Commit to seeing the project through all phases, from design to construction.
- Accept a $150,000 regrant from Trust for Public Land.
- Agree to participate in our contracting and bidding process for the project.
- Acknowledge Trust for Public Land and Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund in marketing materials and signage.
June 12, 2023: Applications Due
Week of June 13, 2023: Application Review and Scoring
June 19, 2023: Notification to Awarded Projects
June-July 2023*: Contracting
August 1, 2023: Projects Start Date
2023-2024 School Year: Engagement and Student Leader Class
Fall 2025: Construction Complete Target Date
Spring 2026: Schoolyard Convening
May 31, 2026: Project End Date
*This program is dependent on the approval of funding and related contracting with the State of Minnesota. Changes to the legislative approval process and contracting could change, delay, or cancel this opportunity.
Applications will be scored according to the matrix provided in this application, with school commitment, readiness, and need being most important. As we build a statewide program, we want to ensure a mix of geography and community types. As such, we have set an intention of funding two projects in Greater Minnesota and two projects within the Twin Cities metro.
Trust for Public Land recognizes the unfortunate reality that many of our schoolyard spaces would benefit from a renovation. However, with limited resources, we must prioritize schools that most urgently need access to high-quality green space. We recognize some schools have opened since that analysis. If your school was not included in the analysis or opened after 2020, we will work with you to gather the appropriate data.
Schools will be scored out of 100 points, based on the following criteria: commitment, readiness, area of need, vision. Partnerships, availability of resources. See the full list of FAQs for further details.
This program is funded through the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF). In 1988, 77 percent of Minnesota voters approved a constitutional amendment establishing the ENRTF—a constitutionally dedicated fund that originates from a combination of Minnesota State Lottery proceeds and investment income. The purpose of ENRTF is to provide a long-term, consistent, and stable source of funding for activities that protect, conserve, preserve, and enhance Minnesota’s air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources for the benefit of current citizens and future generations.
TPL’s Community Schoolyards program has been recommended for funding by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). That recommendation is being considered by the Minnesota Legislature but has not yet been approved. While we have strong indications this will be approved, there is a slight chance this may not occur, in which case Trust for Public Land reserves the right to delay and/or cancel this cohort round of applications.
Trust for Public Land is seeking additional public and private dollars to enhance and expand this program. If you are or know of a potential partner for this work, please contact Program Director, Eric Weiss at email@example.com.
The Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) works under a reimbursement model. A regrant agreement between TPL and schools will establish the partnership and reimbursement protocols.
Schools are expected to manage construction and related bidding, contractor agreements, and maintenance. Trust for Public Land can provide limited technical assistance and support as needed.
We anticipate releasing a second RFP in the spring of 2024 for a cohort of Sprouts, our level 1 quick-build Community Schoolyard improvement projects. The cohort will include up to six schools, evenly split between the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota. Schools will receive $25,000 for site improvements. Ideal applicants for this cohort should apply with specific project improvements in mind, such as rain gardens, outdoor classroom, micro-forest, pollinators habitats, or edible gardens.
In addition, Trust for Public Land can provide fee-for-service project management and engagement support if your playground project budget would allow. Contact Program Director, Eric Weiss at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2610 University Avenue
St. Paul, MN, 55114