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Podcast: Creating Community Schoolyards with Danielle Denk, Trust for Public Land

Posted on September 24, 2021


Danielle Denk - GovLove

Danielle Denk

Danielle Denk
Community Schoolyard Initiative Director
The Trust for Public Land
LinkedIn | Twitter


Addressing park equity. Danielle Denk, Community Schoolyard Initiative Director for the Trust for Public Land, joined the podcast to discuss the initiative to turn schoolyards into community parks that are more welcoming, sustainable, and accessible. She talked about the problem with current schoolyards that are often not open to the community after school hours and made up of asphalt. She also shared how opening schoolyards can provide public space to more families and how creating greener schoolyards can address heat islands.

Host: Kirsten Wyatt

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Episode Transcript

 

Kirsten Wyatt  00:09

Coming to you from Portland, Oregon, this is Gov Love, a podcast about local government. Gov Love is produced by ELGL, the Engaging Local Government Leaders network, we engage the brightest minds in local government.

Ben Kittelson  00:22

Today’s Gov Love episode is sponsored by the land matters podcast. Fans of God love should check out land matters, produced by the Lincoln Institute of land policy. Land matters is a behind the scenes look at what makes cities tick. Every month, the host Anthony Flint talks with leading policymakers and experts about housing, local government finance, infrastructure, equity, and more. To subscribe, search land matters in your podcast app, or go to lincolninst.edu/land-matters. That’s l-i-n-c-o-l-n-i-n-s-t.e-d-u/land-matters.

Kirsten Wyatt  01:00

I’m Kirsten Wyatt, the ELGL co-founder and executive director and today I’m joined by Danielle Denk, the community school yard initiative director at the Trust for Public Land. Danielle, welcome to Gov Love.

Danielle Denk  01:11

Thank you for having me today, Kirsten.

Kirsten Wyatt  01:13

Today we’re talking about the community schoolyard initiative, an innovative solution to America’s park equity problem. But first, let’s get started with a lightning round. Danielle, what is your most controversial non political opinion?

Danielle Denk  01:28

Well, I think Acadia National Park is the best National Park in the country. But it didn’t even make the top 10 list. So you know, where else can you find ocean waves in the morning, hike across mountains and end up in a small fishing village eating lobster. I think it’s just perfect there.

Kirsten Wyatt  01:45

Oh my gosh, that is that is my number one national park that I still want to get to every year. Like the last two years we’ve been planning on it. And then of course COVID has shut everything down. 

Danielle Denk  01:57

Well, you have to go, it’s beautiful there.

Kirsten Wyatt  01:59

We did Glacier this summer, which was wonderful. And so that took my top spot. But I’ve heard from enough people that that is that Maine is my next to do.

Danielle Denk  02:10

You have to go. 

Kirsten Wyatt  02:11

Awesome. All right. What is something that your hometown is famous for?

Danielle Denk  02:16

Well, I live in Philadelphia. So it’s the city of firsts, first library and bank and Zoo and planned city. So you know, thanks to William Penn, we have parks within a walking distance. And that idea that he started back then has really you know, it’s something we come back to at the Trust for Public Land all the time. 

Kirsten Wyatt  02:33

I love that. I love that. And then what was the first concert that you ever attended?

Danielle Denk  02:41

You know, I think Violent Femmes might have been my first concert.

Kirsten Wyatt  02:43

Oh, that’s cool. Like sometimes people have really embarrassing answers, but that’s something that you could be proud of. Alright, and what book are you currently reading? And would you recommend it?

Danielle Denk  02:54

Well, I just finished an awesome book, The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson. Okay, um, yeah, absolutely recommend, it’s, you know, it’s a great story. But really, more than that, there’s a lot of wonderful climate science and policy and just, you know, imagining the future, and what happens in climate change.

Kirsten Wyatt  03:11

Wonderful. Well, and we’ll get into some of those topics during the interview today. But let’s get started. tell our listeners about you and your career path. How did you get to where you are today?

Danielle Denk  03:22

Yeah, so I have two degrees, one in architecture, and one in landscape architecture. So my career basically started with a traditional design firm, you know, working on buildings, working on parks, and I was really happy doing this work. And then, you know, I had my daughter and, you know, a decision timeframe. And for me, at that time, you know, working from home or being part time wasn’t really an option. So I became a full time mom. And it’s interesting that I think I found my way into this space, actually through my children. Because as she, yeah, it was really cool. Because as she grew up, you know, I was looking around for a really good school, you know, a daycare and so forth. preschool and there wasn’t anything in our price range. So me and a number of other parents started our own cooperative school. Yeah, I did not have an education hat at all. But we knew that we needed to make this work because you know, we wanted to have kids with access to nature, access to you know, creative learning, child led play, and, and other things that were only there at the very pricey preschools. So we started this and they asked me to lead it. And so I kind of was exposed for the first time to nonprofit management, education. And I think because this is a cooperative, it was really a wonderful way to see the community come together to take the action. And so you know, that opened my eyes up to doing more volunteer work, I ended up actually grading a school yard for my kids, I know, and then around that time, the Trust for Public Land was opening their Philadelphia Office. So I joined to kind of get things started and really haven’t looked back since.

Kirsten Wyatt  04:55

Yeah, that’s wonderful. And so tell us more for our listeners who are not familiar, What is the Trust for Public Land?

Danielle Denk  05:02

So the mission of the trust of public land is to create parks and protect land, ensuring healthy, livable communities. So our strategic commitments are really to equity to climate, health and community. And we deliver our work through our four primary initiatives, parks, lands, trails, and school yards.

Kirsten Wyatt  05:19

Okay. And, and then specific to your project, the community schoolyard initiative. How did how did how did this initiative come to be? Did you found it? And then how did it become embraced by the Trust for Public Lands?

Danielle Denk  05:32

Oh, no, I did not found the Community School Yard Initiative. So we’ve actually been doing this work for the last 25 years, our New York City schoolyard program started, actually by turning, you know, old, abandoned, not quite abandoned, but you know, vacant asphalt school lots in the parks. And, and there was an aha moment for them, because they realized that they could transform the space that was sitting there in an urban area into something so vibrant. And so they started doing more and more people came on, and they’d started this amazing program. And so they’ve been working really hard. And then that model kind of spread to Philadelphia, it spread to Newark, New Jersey, you know, Camden, and then across the country, Tacoma, Oakland, Atlanta, Georgia, where, and also in Dallas, we’re all all of our cities are in so many of our cities that are working on community school yards. So it’s been something that we’ve been taking as a program in growing as other programs. But the initiative really thinks about how, you know, school yards really can become the new standard practice, because we see so many tremendous outcomes that these places bring to their students and our communities. And we want every child in every community to have access to this, that so the initiative kind of works across the country nationally, to think about what systems need to change in order to really standardize this work.

Kirsten Wyatt  06:49

I can’t help but think that you are the absolute perfect person to be leading this initiative, given your background and given, you know, kind of that intersection of design, and then also education. So you know, what a gift to be able to have have, you know, to be able to work on this program with your background.

Danielle Denk  07:07

I’m just lucky, I really love this work. But there are so many amazing people working at the Trust for Public Land, who, who have done this work for a long time who are doing this work and growing. And what’s interesting is that because we have researchers and scientists and we have GIS experts, and we have folks that are leading policy, there are so many experts here and when we all focus our attention on trying to advance Community School yards, the collective impact is really tremendous. So I would say it’s definitely not me, it is me with so many amazing other people.

Kirsten Wyatt  07:38

So paint a picture for us of the school yards that you are most focused on. I’m, I’m guessing that it’s not a suburban school, but it’s something that is, you know, maybe smack dab in the middle of a city, but paint a picture for us of the type of school yards that are that are of most focus for you.

Danielle Denk  07:57

The type of school yard, I mean, I wouldn’t say that there’s one particular typology. So for us, because we focus on health and equity, access to parks, climate resilience, the urban footprint does make a lot of sense in so many cases. And that’s where we’ve done a lot of our work in transforming that and kind of ripping out that awful heat absorbing asphalt, turning it into places with trees and gardens and absorbing stormwater and, you know, awesome play opportunities. But then also when we think about community, which is also one of our strategic commitments, it’s when we think about that we go out to the rural communities, to the small towns, is places that might not have the Civic infrastructure for bringing people together, where school yards are such an important strategy too, because then you’re actually creating that space for social cohesion. And that is so critical in our rural communities right now. So it’s definitely not only an urban prototype, it’s an urban and rural prototype. In fact, we’re working on a really exciting school yard right now in a small tiny town in Oregon, with a tribal community and and that’s been really amazing to see how that’s the same transformation, which we’ve always thought of to the urban has really made such a difference for that community.

Kirsten Wyatt  09:15

And I was so surprised when I read that. And it really the rural access issue is really because of this no trespassing or site closures. So what are some of those impacts when, and you know, and this example in Oregon might be a good example, when we make schoolyards private or closed when school is not in session?

Danielle Denk  09:37

Yeah, I mean, what happens is it’s really hard to maintain beautiful green amenities that would serve the students if you’re closing those gates during the summer and the weekend in particular in the summer because the you know, the maintenance requirements are a year long need right? And also what happens when you lock up a school yard, you’re, you’re denying the community that entry point and we’ve Seen that when schools and communities come together, there’s a huge strength that, you know, that radiates out. And it really does invite more people to see that school as a place for their children. Again, just like systems that build social cohesion, the school is really at the center of that and unlocking those school yard doors open up so many opportunities. You know, beyond that, also, and I think you’ll, we might know that the Trust for Public Land for many years has been committed to trying to ensure that every American has access to a park within a 10 minute walk. And we’ve been doing the studies and you understand that that gap represents 100 million people. So we’ve looked at what school yards, if they were all open, would do to that gap. And actually, we could connect 20 million more people that currently don’t have access to a park if we opened up all those doors. And so that’s 1/5 of our goal. So that’s huge. But opening those doors also provides 80 million people with access that, you know, might also be able to walk to a park, and 50 million children who go to that school every day. So the tremendous impact that it would have on the quality of life, for so many Americans, is just off the charts.

Kirsten Wyatt  11:10

Another stat from the report that I found interesting of the 90,000 public school yards in the US, less than 1% of them are rich and green spaces and stay open to the neighborhood outside of school hours. So talk to us more about this. I mean, I find this pretty surprising statistic. So what does this mean for communities today? and and you know, how do we improve on it?

Danielle Denk  11:33

Well, there are. So that’s that’s, the key there is understanding that that number represents both green and open. So there are a number of school yards that are green, they might have beautiful playground equipment, they might have beautiful facilities for their students, but they’re just locked up. So if we can focus on trying to open up those doors, through legal arrangements, joint use agreements, shared use agreements with cities or parks departments, that’s huge, that can really make a huge difference. And you know, tackling that 10 minute walk number, but then also providing that wonderful opportunity for social cohesion that happens there. And the other thing is that we really need to do something about the lack of greening that happens in America’s public schools for so long, they’ve been forgotten, you know, education in general, and schools in general have been kind of forgotten from the perspective of sort of that infrastructural policy. And so moving schools more than that space is really an important thing to think about, you know, these are community assets. These are civic assets, these are social infrastructure, and, and so how can we make these the best that they possibly can be in every community, so that all adult children can really benefit from the health, the academic, you know, the social and emotional benefits that come with these spaces.

Kirsten Wyatt  12:47

Talk to us about heat islands, and how heat islands and income inequality are linked, and what some of your studies have shown on that.

Danielle Denk  12:56

Yeah, so we have found that in areas with the most extreme heat, like five degrees more than the city average, the household income average is at about 59,000. And by contrast, in the coolest parts of town, where temperatures are slightly below city average, we find that the household income is 91,000. So there’s a big economic contrast to where it’s hot, and where it’s cold, you know, this layers on because, you know, we found that, you know, the schools, and the most students of color, were a full degree hotter than the local average temperature in the surrounding community. And these communities have fewer opportunities to access parks, right, because parks are wonderful natural cooling centers, they can actually cool the air by 15 degrees. And so we find that, and that’s a full air around, you know, just the surface temperature. So what’s staggering, and I think what really speaks to the inequities is that, you know, we do know that parks in predominantly white communities are 40%, bigger than parks and communities where there’s a majority of people of color. So you think about the economic, the demographic side of inequity, and how it lines up against access to parks, access to cool space, you know, presents a real important opportunity to do something about it. School yards, where they’re located in the middle of communities is really an opportune strategy for bringing cooling directly to the places that need it most.

Kirsten Wyatt  14:19

What is so fascinating is, is this reminder, and I think, you know, reading this report, and we’ll make sure that we link to it in the show notes. Is, is I mean, literally in our backyards, we have the capability to build out Park access. And you know, maybe if someone hadn’t thought about it in that way, and they’re thinking, Oh, you know, we have to acquire land or we have to, you know, invest in, you know, in new park or new locations. And I mean, it’s literally in our backyard, that we’re able to, you know, potentially, you know, make this you know, significant investment in our communities. What should the listener who’s you know, hearing this and thinking, Oh, my goodness, how did we, you know, how have we not done something on this front, you know yet what is a next step for them? Or what is something that they could do to utilize some of the research and and opportunities through your initiative?

Danielle Denk  15:11

Well, I’m glad to ask that question because I know your audience is government leaders and experts and people who are really in that important role of advocating for this change. So I will say that there is many pilots and many demonstrations of success, and so on our successful programs, which are all of them, they’ve all come together, you know, with city leaders, parks, departments, sometimes sustainability officers or water departments, sometimes state departments for the, you know, environment come in and work with school districts. And we forge public and private partnerships. So that you know, there is there’s a big table that helps to shape multi-site multi-program initiative that really thinks about the full potential of spaces across the city to really change and to become a working model for addressing heat islands, for addressing, you know, combined sewer overflows, it’s been a really big galvanizing point, and bringing people to the table. And I know you didn’t ask this question yet, but I’ll just bring it right up. So when it comes to combined sewer overflows, and water quality, you know, so many of our urban cities have, you know, this challenged sewer system that can’t handle the capacity and, and so, you know, we end up with, you know, sewage in our rivers, and that can’t be happening. In fact, in Camden, we actually have sewage coming into our homes and businesses. It’s really terrible. And so school yards and greening in like rain gardens and stormwater systems within the school can make a huge difference. And, you know, holding back that stormwater so that you know, the systems can do what they need to do. And we can, we’ve actually calculated that through our work, actually, in Philadelphia, in New York City in Camden, New Jersey, that combined today, we’ve been able to hold 40 million gallons of raw sewage out of our creeks and streams. So that’s been enormous. And so looking to scale that up is significant, because not only are the, you know, outcomes associated with water quality, huge, but then also these gardens are wonderful laboratories for learning or exploring nature. And we find that children become such ambassadors for this positive change in their community, that they really are becoming the next environmental leaders just so that exposure.

Kirsten Wyatt  17:27

I love the example from I think it’s Jenny Reed in Tacoma, Washington, about how, you know by, you know, planned green infrastructure, you’re able to transform what was really an unusable space anytime it rained, and it’s in Washington. So of course, that’s happening all the time into something that, you know, became an actual amenity at the school, you know, in addition to teaching these kids about groundwater and stormwater and runoff. And so can you talk more and share with our listeners about what you did in Tacoma?

Danielle Denk  18:00

Yeah, I mean, in Tacoma, they’re working closely with, with the water department to try to manage stormwater and, and I can say that I am not actively involved in the Tacoma program, but any program that’s built around stormwater, it’s really going to be focused on trying to integrate green infrastructure and rain gardens into that space. And they, I do have a story from Philadelphia. Yeah, it’s fun. So this is when I was doing project management and working with students in a school. We were working on this one little school and the students had a decision to make because we always want the students to make so many of the design decisions, they actually it’s I can tell you all about this wonderful process that they go through. But it came to the place where they needed to think about their budget, and where are they going to allocate funds for a bigger playground or were they going to allocate funds for a rain garden? And prior to this, we took them to, you know, the waterworks Interpretive Center, they learned all about water quality issues, and they learned about you know, combined sewer overflows, and so they were so inspired to make an important change in their community, but they chose the rain garden over play, which I didn’t expect. But they did!

Kirsten Wyatt  19:07

I love that! That is so Amazing.

Danielle Denk  19:09

Yeah, so I mean, that’s the thing is, is that that kind of decision is made over and over again by the students because they really do care. I don’t think we give our students enough credit for being citizens because they really are intuitive, and they really are compassionate, and they really do want to make a difference. And so when, when a child makes a decision to, you know, favor a rain garden over play, that’s so powerful. That’s exactly what we want to see them be proud of and take forward.

Ben Kittelson  19:38

Today’s episode is sponsored by the land matters podcast. After you’ve listened to every episode of Gov Love, you know, maybe a couple of times, you should check out land matters. Every month they explore policy issues like housing, local government finance, infrastructure and equity. Recent guests have included Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson on reinventing a post industrial city, NYU  Professor Ingrid Gould Ellen on creating local housing strategies and author Bill McKibben on decarbonization. Land matters is a great show, and will be a great resource for those working in local government or interested in public policy. So please take a moment to subscribe now, you can do that by searching land matters wherever you listen to this podcast, or by going to lincolninst.edu/land-matters. That’s l-i-n-c-o-l-n-i-n-s-t.e-d-u/land-matters.

Kirsten Wyatt  20:26

And this idea of building the bench of our future environmental leaders is so incredibly compelling. And if you could talk more about how you’re building in, you know, the the education resources to again meet that interest, meet that need of this of this next generation of leaders and students who I think perhaps care more about environmental issues than generations before them. So we’d love to hear more about that outdoor learning movement as well.

Danielle Denk  21:06

Oh, absolutely. It’s so important. And it’s so important where outdoor access has been limited to this very small paved over parks. Because these are the students that need to have that moment of wonder and awe in nature, to make it matter for them. And so what we do when our participatory design is we actually we talk a lot about planning issues, we talk a lot about social issues, and we then take students out into nature and into other parks and into other school yards and, and they see firsthand how wonderful it is to be around these green spaces. They interact with the trees, we release butterflies, they’re, they’re doing all kinds of very fun, exploratory actions in nature, and then they’re also playing, and then we come back and we talk about it, we’re like, Okay, what was that experience like? What did you learn? And the stories that they share are just so revealing about, and One kid said to me, at, on a school bus, they’re like, mam, thank you for taking us there, and it was to a park. And I’m like, oh, no problem, that’s what we do. And she’s like, well, thank you for paying for us to get in. And I’m like, what, wait a second, no we don’t have to pay, it’s a public park, you’re allowed to go there. And the student didn’t know that. So her parents never took her to a park before. And it just taking a child to a park, on its own. Wow, you know, like, so this stuff is very even the smallest actions makes such a big difference. And, and so having that access, understanding the students role, and making the change towards more environmental space is huge. I’m excited about this work we’re doing now. And in Camden, New Jersey, we’re working with a high school, and that high school group is actually developing a sustainable campus. And that campus is going to be started and monitored and maintained by them as actual, like, you know, sort of like a pipeline of green jobs still need to happen at that school because of this transformation. So you know, it’s a lot more than just that learning, but it’s also that, you know, being part and sort of that job opportunity that comes with it.

Kirsten Wyatt  23:06

And I can’t help but think that that is a whole new approach to career and technical education as well, you know, to think about what are green jobs of the future? Or what are jobs where you can, you know, work outdoors and work in nature and reminding our students, you know, that career paths can go in that direction. And then even thinking beyond that to, you know, maybe a career in design or an architecture, or landscape. And so that’s fabulous. I love hearing stories like that. 

Danielle Denk  23:34

We’re really excited about that one. All of them!

Kirsten Wyatt  23:36

Would love to hear the, some of the your anecdotal findings so far, especially around how this initiative can help student behavior and performance. You know, especially when they’re in school, when we are when we’re greening our school yards. 

Danielle Denk  23:53

Yeah, I mean, so there’s a lot of information that we’re collecting right now. There’s a really exciting report that we’re, it’s actually a research study that is being led by researcher Chris Lim out of the University of Arizona, and he’s understanding the difference between educational outcomes associated with students that had one of those 220 School yards that were renovated in New York versus students that did not. And so that I think it’s going to give us a lot of insight into answering that question, but some of the things that we’re already seeing is that suspension rates in some schools have actually dropped down. We had a school in Philadelphia that had a suspension rate of like 35 a year. And then after the school year was open, it dropped to zero and it stayed there. And you know, that’s been really tremendous. So now we’re looking at other data points where we can find suspension rate information, behavioral information, because we think that’s going to open up the door for school yards, not just to be seen as sort of this sort of nice to have but really, a need to have the need to have educational intervention. We’ve seen test scores improve when students have the opportunity to look outside their window and see a tree, they do better on their standardized test. So there’s so much research that shows that this is such an important intervention. It’s not just about environmental education awareness, but it really is going to help you do better in math, to do better in reading, maybe go to school more, you know, not be suspended as much. So the whole spectrum of those, you know, educational, emotional, social outcomes for students are significant.

Kirsten Wyatt  25:29

Well, it looks like to that even some early studies on like PSAT scores, and that cognitive development, and then the tie back to the heat islands, and, you know, in schools where they don’t have green space, I mean, an actual performance link to back to, you know, education and performance.

Danielle Denk  25:52

Absolutely.

Kirsten Wyatt  25:54

Talk to us about, you know, funding and and some of the funding mechanisms that some of our listeners might want to look into. Are ARPA funds, the American Rescue Plan Act, are those in play as it comes as it relates to community school yards? 

Danielle Denk  26:10

Yeah, I mean, I think that they have been in certain school districts that are in position to take advantage of those funds, which are on a pretty tight timeline. So, so those funds, I think they need to be spent down within three years, you know, they’ve been in the hands of school districts making decisions for a couple of months, some school districts are reaching out to us and saying, Hey, we want to move the school yard forward, we have these funds, love hearing that. And it’s often those school yards that have already completed a certain phase of design, because they take a while right to be to be built a couple, maybe a year of design, maybe half a year of construction. So you know, trying to get it teed up to meet the timeline, it’s sort of, you know, threading the needle now. We encourage everybody to thread that needle now get these built, because it’s, the funding is tremendous. And we’ve been saying that school yards are uniquely positioned to do well with this, this relief package funding because they’re short term capital, heavy expense, there’s some operations for sure, but it’s mostly capital, right. And so they meet the kind of very particular funding requirement. And then they also provide that opportunity for students to learn outside, which we all know being out in fresh air is so much better for for health and for reducing the spread of COVID. And especially as students have returned back to school, that opportunity to be outside, it’s just, you know, it’s just such a relief for students and for teachers to be able to just take a break from that being indoor, the cacophony, the, you know, everything that goes with it right now. So encouraging schools to do that, in some cases, they’re choosing just to do components, like an outdoor learning area, or a garden or you know, maybe even a playground. But you know, there is definitely a really important opportunity there. And then with the reconciliation package, that’s also you know, at the federal level, we are really excited to see schools be positioned for as infrastructure, and then by extension, those school yards, our infrastructure as well. And so how can, how can this model be supported through any future funding that’s coming through those packages. So it’s a really important time right now, the federal government, there’s a lot of policy that’s focused on equity, that’s, you know, helping to shape education. And so it’s an exciting time to be watching these things take shape, and we’re, we’re so excited to be here to help support in any way we can at the local level. You know, there’s certainly some funding that we talked about water funding, sometimes school district funding, sometimes park and rec funding is available, that also is at the state level sometimes. So we have seen a lot of opportunities to leverage public funding for these and in some cases, it’s really the private funding that might be focused on the operations of, you know, setting these these school yards up designing them, you know, getting the community so involved in the decision making, you know, setting the table to include everybody, you know, there’s there’s work there. And so, private funding can usually come in to support those efforts. But a lot of the capital dollars can often be found through public money, it is often very helpful to have some dedicated public money or private money as leverage to open the doors because so much of these public sources require a match. So we’d like to have something on the table to kind of open wider the doors to then fill out the full budget.

Kirsten Wyatt  29:30

I love to that you mentioned starting with even just one project, you know, I think it’s always important when we talk about, you know, these really important large scale initiatives to remind our listeners that that you can start with an outdoor classroom, as you mentioned, or, or one small project, like you don’t have to look at every single schoolyard in your district or in your community and be like, we need to tackle all of this at once. So I appreciate that you mentioned this idea that you know, start small you know, so A goal to do something, you know, don’t just sit back and wait until you know you have every single piece in play.

Danielle Denk  30:07

Yeah, I mean, that’s a, that’s an important point. I mean, because so often you want to be able to demonstrate success. And so having a pilot in place, or a couple pilots in place is really effective in terms of bringing other resources to support these multi-site, you know, district wide projects we do in programs. We really like to set the goal for having multiple district wide programs. But we understand that the way to get there often is iterative. And it might take a demonstration or two to really get that buy in to go all the way. But we really do encourage school districts and local partners to think big about what their long term goals are, what their community based goals are. And when it comes to climate and health and equity, because that helps to prioritize certain districts and certain schools rather, that might not appear on the radar, but really make a difference if you prioritize the place with the greatest need.

Kirsten Wyatt  31:01

What is next for the community schoolyard initiative? What do you have on your plate to work on in the next year?

Danielle Denk  31:08

We are going to be building more programs and more places. So I mentioned some of the places where we have work already on the ground. But there’s there’s been a map recently released that shows where school yards can make the biggest difference on our health and climate and education outcomes. And so we’re going to be focusing on some outreach to those schools and those cities to try to get them to be excited about this work and share our resources. Like we’ve been doing this, as I said, for 25 years, we have a lot of in house expertise. And now we really want to put that out there. And we want to be a resource to others. And so we know that we’re not going to be building out programs everywhere around the country, but we can certainly help them get off the ground. And so you know, it’s really thinking about how can we be more nimble to support more people and doing this in more places. And you know, getting the words and the great things that we’ve learned in the journey that we’ve had out the door.

Kirsten Wyatt  31:58

We will link to Danielle’s contact information, all of the community schoolyard initiative information from the show notes for this episode. So for our listeners, head over to ELGL.org, you can get connected to all of these great resources that we’ve talked about today. I do have to end with a really hard hitting question. If you could be the Gov Love DJ, for this episode, what song would you pick as our exit music for today’s show?

Danielle Denk  32:27

You know, I love the one from Fresh Prince of Bel Air West Philadelphia born and raised.

Kirsten Wyatt  32:33

I think you’re the only person to pick the Fresh Prince theme song so far. So we will, we will add that to end this episode. But I want to thank you, Danielle, for joining us today and talking about this really important work and I hope you’ll come back and share more success stories down the road as you get more programs launched around the country. 

Danielle Denk  32:55

Awesome. Thank you so much. 

Kirsten Wyatt  32:57

Gov Love is produced by a rotating cast of ELGL volunteers. A reminder that we are now accepting applications for the 2021 Top 100 influencers of local government award, affectionately known as the Chris Traeger award. Nominate the local leader who is doing great work today at ELGL.org. This prestigious list is the perfect way to recognize someone who selflessly gives back to their community and the local government profession. ELGL is the Engaging Local Government Leaders network. You can reach us at ELGL.org/GovLove or on Twitter at @GovLovePodcast. Thank you for listening. This has been Gov Love, a podcast about local government.


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