Community Schoolyard Renovation Application


What We’re Doing
Creating a vibrant green space for everyone to enjoy.

Our Goal
Transform Minnesota schoolyards into park-like spaces, designed by the community to improve health, equity, climate, and educational outcomes.

Community Schoolyards are game-changing for the whole neighborhood
An aerial view of a circular park.
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A Comprehensive Plan

Every school that’s selected will receive a complete roadmap to transform their current playground into their dream schoolyard.

Design Process

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.

Student Involvement

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
  • Trails
  • Limited gathering amenities such as benches and tables
Chiloquin Schoolyard
To close the park equity gap, we must get creative to optimize the open space we already have, in places like forgotten alleyways, postindustrial waterfronts … and asphalt-covered schoolyards.
Eligibility Requirements
  1. Be an individual school or school district to apply.
  2. Ensure that the school is an elementary, junior/middle, or secondary school.
  3. Obtain written support for the project from the school principal.
  4. Identify a school site coordinator to oversee the project.
  5. Keep the schoolyard open to the public after-school hours.
  6. Integrate the project into classroom learning as a requirement.
  7. Agree to participate in an evaluation program.
  8. Attend all cohort meetings as scheduled.
  9. Agree to take long-term responsibility for maintenance and care of the project.
  10. Commit to seeing the project through all phases, from design to construction.
  11. Accept a $150,000 regrant from Trust for Public Land.
  12. Agree to participate in our contracting and bidding process for the project.
  13. Acknowledge Trust for Public Land and Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund in marketing materials and signage.

Read the full eligibility requirements.

Application Timeline

    • 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.
Frequently Asked Questions

Don’t see your question below? Check out this full list of FAQs.

How will projects be selected?

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.

How do you determine schools of high need?

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.

How does scoring work?

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.

How is this program funded?

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 Anna Callahan at

How will funds be allocated?

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.

Who will manage construction?

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.

Get in Touch With Our Minnesota Team
St. Paul Office

2610 University Avenue
Suite 300
St. Paul, MN, 55114
(651) 760-0179

Associate Vice President, Minnesota State Director