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Leopold Green Schoolyard Project

Community Project Coordinator, Abe Lenoch at the Leopold Fall Festival

Community Project Coordinator, Abe Lenoch at the Leopold Fall Fiesta


1000 Friends is working with students and the rest of the school community at Leopold Elementary and a number of partners to create a conceptual plan for green infrastructure redevelopment of the schoolyard.

Partnership with local organizations/agencies and a commitment to coordination between those organizations and families within the community is a priority that will allow the project to meet community and student needs. 1000 Friends is at the heart of those partnerships and is leading the project by convening vital stakeholders and allowing the community to guide any decisions of redevelopment. A “Green Team” including parents, teachers, and other community members will be the leadership team for the green schoolyard project. Leopold students will be involved throughout this project- during the design phases as well as learning through an environmental education curriculum. While 1000 Friends will lead the project, the “Green Team” will be the leader within the community and will have the final say on any redevelopment that is proposed.

Getting Kids Outdoors

The project will connect Leopold students to nature through new and exciting spaces for healthy and creative play and through an environmental education curriculum that describes the benefits of green infrastructure and its positive impact on local watersheds. Teachers will have the opportunity to take their students to outdoor classrooms for more hands-on learning. Getting kids outdoors is important for their mental and physical health and has been shown to improve academic outcomes. 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.

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Project Goals/Ideas

Main goal:

  • Solve flooding issues related to excessive storm-water runoff through Green Infrastructure (GI) installments

The following goals are preliminary and as the school community continues to get involved they may evolve:

  • Connect children to nature through outdoor classrooms and an environmental education curriculum
  • Create living laboratories such as, native gardens, green roofs, porous paving, bioswales, and/or storm-water trees
  • Help foster existing school/community partnerships and facilitate future sustainable relationships between the school and its surrounding community
  • Soften and beautify hard landscapes of Leopold Community School to encourage use for healthy and creative play
  • Design and install a community gathering space for community events, dinners, festivals, etc.
Rendering of playground with green infrastructure by Alex Ricketts.

Rendering of playground with green infrastructure by Alex Ricketts.

Timeline/Status of project:

1000 Friends has formed a coalition of project partners including City of Madison, City of Fitchburg, Public Health-Madison & Dane County, and MMSD. We have raised awareness of the project at community events like the Leopold Fall Festival and Community School Committee meetings where we also recruited Leopold School community members to the “Green Team”. We have the full support from the new principal, Peg Keeler, and MMSD for this project. Rosie Gittens, the Community Resources Coordinator at Leopold, has been a crucial piece in the engagement process thus far. Once a conceptual plan is agreed upon and completed by the “Green Team”, it will be evaluated by professional architects and designers. A final redevelopment plan will then be completed and installation will begin once necessary approvals and permits are received.

Leopold Community School LogoAbout Leopold:

Leopold Elementary School is one of four designated Community School’s in the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). The collaborative nature of this project will rely on the characteristics that allow MMSD Community Schools, like Leopold School, to thrive. 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.

Icy conditions on Leopold's sidewalks

Icy conditions on Leopold’s sidewalks require the use of excessive salt. Photo credit: Jesse Garcia

Thawing conditions at Leopold's schoolyard

Thawing conditions at Leopold’s schoolyard causes flooding and muddy play areas.

Why green infrastructure?

Green infrastructure mimics natural water systems by managing and using storm-water runoff at its source. It can be as simple as planting a tree, which would capture more runoff for its growth, or as complex as installing porous pavement, which takes up and infiltrates runoff at the source. Green infrastructure is an alternative to standard “gray” infrastructure where runoff is diverted to storm-water pipes and drains and ends up in our rivers and lakes. Green infrastructure installments allow buildings and landscapes to contribute to the protection of natural resources we still have while also making properties more aesthetically pleasing.