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School Yard Initiative (SYI)

Grants to Colorado Schools Working With Local Government Agencies
to Revitalize School Playgrounds and Outdoor Learning Spaces

Agency Type:

Foundation / Corporation

Funding Source:

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Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW)

Deadline Date:



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Grants to Colorado schools that are working together with local government agencies to develop projects that revitalize school playgrounds and outdoor learning environments. Applicants must contact program staff prior to submitting an application. Funding is intended to support projects that promote increased student involvement in active, physical play and enhance outdoor learning on school grounds.

Funding can be used to develop a new school yard and/or to enhance or improve existing schoolyards. Projects must include spaces for outdoor play and learning. Projects can include natural playscapes, age-specific play equipment, outdoor classrooms, learning gardens, water play features, climbing walls, walking paths, environmental education signage, and shade. These are merely examples; GOCO encourages students and schools to dream big. Projects that include natural components will likely be more competitive. All projects must be constructed on or adjacent to school grounds, and are required to be open to the public during non-school hours.

The most competitive projects will be those that reflect a participatory design process led by the students and supported by the local community. Please note that all projects must be designed, at least in part, by students. In addition, this program emphasizes projects that reach underserved youth and families who may otherwise have limited access to quality parks.

In addition to receiving GOCO funding for infrastructure improvements, elementary schools selected for the 2019 School Play Yard Initiative (SYI) will be eligible to become partner schools in CPW’s Schools and Outdoor Learning Environments (SOLE) program, which provides outdoor experiences and teacher training to help students and families connect with nature on-site, and through 4th grade field trips to nearby natural spaces. All selected schools will be eligible for on-site teacher professional development workshops to help incorporate the outdoor space into the existing curriculum.

2019 School Yard Initiative

Eligible Entities: School Yard projects must be proposed through a partnership between a local government and a school or school district as local governments are the only entities eligible to receive GOCO grants for this purpose per the Constitutional Amendment that created GOCO.

Property Ownership: All property on which GOCO funded projects are located must be owned by or under control of the applicant for the useful life of the project. Considering these projects will be constructed on school grounds and therefore owned by the school/school district, an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between the local government and the school district will be required if grant funding is awarded.

School Yard Design: The planning and design of all projects must be led by the students. The SYI is a competitive grant program and schools that demonstrate authentic youth engagement compete better. There are many resources on authentic youth engagement, click here for a good starting point. Schools are required to work with a professional design consultant to prepare conceptual design documents as part of the application process. Please click here for a list of professional design consultants interested in serving your school. Please note that some of the consultants on this list are commercial playground equipment providers who are able to provide proposals for play equipment replacement projects. For more extensive projects, we suggest that you work with a landscape architect who can address the design of your space holistically, taking into account the opportunities and constraints of the project site. If your grant is awarded, you’re eligible to use up to $10,000 of your GOCO grant to finalize design documents.

Eligible Project Types: Funding can be used to develop a new school yard and/or to enhance or improve existing school yards. Projects must include spaces for outdoor play and learning. Projects can include green schoolyards, natural playscapes, age specific play equipment, outdoor classrooms, learning gardens, waterplay features, climbing walls, walking paths, environmental education signage, and shade. If you are proposing a garden as part of your project, please be sure to think about management and maintenance of your garden. Click here for a great resource on this topic. These project components are merely examples; we encourage students and schools to dream big! Projects that include natural components will likely be more competitive. All projects must be constructed on or adjacent to school grounds.

Access: The proposed school yard must be open to the general public, daily, when school is not in session. The project budget must include funding for signage that informs the community of the days and hours the school yard is open to the public.

SOLE Program Partnership: As part of the 2019 SYI, schools awarded construction funding will also be invited to become partner schools with Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Schools and Outdoor Learning Environments program. SOLE schools participate in field trips to nearby nature areas such as state parks, wildlife areas, or partner organizations such as nature centers and museums. SOLE also hosts Family Nature Nights on the school grounds and in-class presentations. Current SOLE programs provide 3 field trips to students in the 4th grade.

To encourage use of school grounds as outdoor learning environments, the SOLE program is piloting teacher training workshops to provide specific hands-on strategies and activities to inspire teachers from all subject areas to take learning outdoors. Schools will be asked to send several teacher and administrative representatives to a regional workshop, or to provide professional development time for SOLE to host an on-site teacher training.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 140856

Estimated Size of Grant:

Each school is eligible to apply for grants up to $110,000. Up to $10,000 of that funding can be used to complete design documents.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Who Can Apply:

Schools can apply if they partner with an eligible local government, such as a city, county or park and recreation district.

The majority of successful applicants have Free and Reduced Lunch rates above 40% and/or propose projects that help overcome significant barriers to youth and families enjoying the outdoors in their communities.


Sports fields, tracks and other components for organized play are not eligible for SYI funding but can be funded through GOCO's Local Parks and Outdoor Recreation grant program.

What GOCO does not fund:

- Indoor facilities (except environmental facilities and restrooms)
- Non-fixed assets (i.e., lawn mowers, shovels, rakes, etc.)
- Operations & maintenance costs
- Programmatic funding, including environmental education
- Outdoor performing art centers/amphitheater
- Staff time (city, county or district)
- Volunteer time
- Sculptures and artwork
- Administrative costs (photo copies, mileage, food and drinks, grant writing, publications, etc.)
- Work completed prior to grant award (except for design and engineering)

Pre-Application Information:

How to Apply:

It is strongly recommended that applicants contact the Youth Initiatives Program Coordinator, Erika Meyer, before beginning work on your application to ensure that your project will compete well and to discuss your project's eligibility (see Contact Information section below for details).

When to Apply:
May 1, 2018: Applications posted.
December 11, 2018: Draft applications due (optional).
January 8, 2019: Applications due via online portal.
March 2019: Grants awarded.

Please note the following:

- Charter schools should review the application carefully for requirements regarding land ownership. GOCO is working to better support the growing need from charter schools, though short-term leases can present challenges to participation in this grant program.

- Match Requirements: The applicant and partner must provide 25% of the total project cost in matching funds. That 25% must include at least 10% in cash while the remaining 15% can be in-kind contributions, cash, or donations.

- GOCO believes there is great value in schools working with a professional design consultant to help with creative and innovative design, to ensure the school site can accommodate that design, and to provide insight into what the project might cost. At the time of application, it is therefore a requirement that each school has worked with a professional design consultant on a conceptual design for the school yard that is based on a student led process. If a GOCO grant is awarded, up to $10,000 of that award can be used to pay for the remaining costs associated with design. GOCO wants to ensure that at least $100,000 of a grant award is dedicated to components on the ground.

Recorded webinar:

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Click here to register to apply online:

For questions, contact:
Erika Meyer
Youth Initiatives Program Coordinator
Phone: 303-226-4512

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Colorado