PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — One Providence elementary school now offers its students a “unique nature space.”
The city’s first “green schoolyard” opened Monday at Bailey Elementary School near Baxter Park.
The Bailey Baxter Green Schoolyard is the flagship project of the Providence Green Schoolyard Initiative.
The goal of the initiative, according to the city, is to develop formerly under-resourced urban school grounds into places that improve student learning outcomes, community health and neighborhood pride.
“Parks continue to be one of the most critical investments we can prioritize in our city,” Mayor Jorge Elorza said. “I’m excited that work is already underway to have even more of these beautiful spaces for learning and play right here in Providence.”
The green schoolyard serves as a connection between the park and school, according to the city. Baxter Park was expanded onto two previously-blighted properties, while the Bailey School playground encompassed two additional lots.
The new playspace boasts two outdoor learning spaces, two state-of-the-art playgrounds, a multiuse field and walking paths, as well as the planting of new trees and greenery.
“The play structures will increase physical activity, improve motor skills and address students’ sensory needs while the open play area will allow for more creative play,” Bailey School Principal Alicia Jones said. “Students’ social and emotional skills will improve as they navigate play with their peers.”
“The outdoor learning spaces bring learning outside of the traditional classroom setting and increase student engagement,” she continued. “Our new multipurpose outdoor play and learning spaces help us educate the whole child.”
Green schoolyards aren’t unique to Providence. Children & Nature Network’s Priya Cook said the playspaces are popping up in cities all across the country.
“Research shows that regular access to nature improves healthy development, increases academic achievement and promotes social and emotional learning for children,” Cook, the nonprofit’s director of green schoolyards explained.
The installation of the green schoolyard cost nearly $1 million, more than half of which came from the RIHousing Property Acquisition and Revitalization Program.
The next green schoolyard will be built next to Mary Fogarty Elementary School. Construction is slated to begin later this month and is expected to be completed in summer 2023.