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Leopold Green Schoolyard Project


1000 Friends is working with the community at Aldo Leopold Elementary School to develop a safe and welcoming green schoolyard there. Because Leopold School is in two watersheds (Lake Wingra and Lake Monona) this is also an important watershed protection project in south-central Wisconsin. 

Abe Lenoch at LeopoldWe are working directly with parents and teachers at Leopold School as part of the Leopold Green Team. The Green Team is the leadership and planning committee that is spear-heading the green schoolyard efforts and is made up of parents, staff and community partners.  While 1000 Friends is coordinating the project, the Green Team serves as the leader within the community and will ultimately be responsible for final decisions regarding development and implementation.

Leopold students will be involved throughout this project- during the planning phases and through an environmental education curriculum. There will also be community work days as projects are implemented, so Leopold students, families and staff can help by getting their hands a little dirty in the process.

Project Goals/Ideas

Main Goals

  • Increase Leopold students and families’ access to healthy and creative outdoor learning and play
  • Use green infrastructure techniques to solve flooding issues related to excessive storm-water runoff (see pictures below)

The following goals are part of a long-range plan and will evolve over time:

  • Connect children to nature through outdoor classrooms and an environmental education curriculum
  • Create living laboratories such as rain gardens, stump gardens, and natural paths
  • Design and install a community gathering space – the Green Team has discussed clearing a wooded area towards the back of the school for this purpose
  • Help foster existing school/community partnerships and facilitate future sustainable relationships between the school and its surrounding community
  • Soften and beautify hard landscapes around the school
Rendering of playground with green infrastructure by Alex Ricketts.

Rendering of playground with green infrastructure by Alex Ricketts.

Getting Kids Outside

Increasing children’s exposure to the outdoors is important for their mental and physical health and academic performance. Research compiled by the Children and Nature Network shows that children have better academic outcomes, more creative options for active play, increased occurrence of beneficial/cooperative play, and greater mental health from exposure to green schoolyards.

Timeline/Status of Project

The Green Team has been meeting since winter 2018. We have been brainstorming project ideas for the schoolyard. As proposals are brought up, they will be shared with teachers and students to ensure they will be used once implemented.

Leopold Community School Logo

About Leopold Elementary School

Leopold Elementary School is one of four designated Community School’s in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). Leopold is the largest elementary school and has the most diverse student population in MMSD. To find out more information about Leopold, head to their website or go to their Facebook page.

What is a green schoolyard?

Green schoolyards bring learning and play to life. They split the schoolyard into different worlds that kids can explore through outdoor learning and healthy and creative play. These hands-on, multi-sensory landscapes benefit users and the surrounding environment. Learn more at:

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