James R. Lowell Elementary School

James R. Lowell Elementary School featured image

Students at Lowell Elementary used to play soccer on hot, uneven asphalt and weave between parked cars to play tag with their classmates. The Olney neighborhood is one of the densest in Philadelphia at almost 3 times the city average, nearly half the residents identify as people of color and nearly 30% of residents live in poverty. The need for a quality park in this neighborhood was so great that WHYY featured Lowell Elementary’s story in 2019. Working with teachers, students, and residents, Trust for Public Land helped reimagine the schoolyard as a colorful representation of the diversity in the neighborhood. Students now have an inspiring space for recess and after-school programs, complete with a running track, jungle gym, and multi-use grass field. Teachers can teach lessons outside and neighbors can exercise or garden in this wonderful space.

The new schoolyard now serves the 800 Lowell Elementary students and over 15,000 residents—including nearly 4,500 children—that live within a 10-minute walk of the school. With help from our friends at the Olney Culture Lab, the schoolyard was designed with direct input and imagination from students and the community. Transforming these spaces makes a life-changing difference for students and their families, and Trust for Public Land is working with communities across Philadelphia to create more green schoolyards where neighbors can come together to play, socialize, exercise and learn.

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