Justin Hegarty, Executive Director, Reflo
Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) and their dedicated Green Teams have visions of holistic redevelopments for their schools to improve the environmental health and social-emotional wellbeing of their students and community. The redevelopments of these schoolyards and future schoolyards offer access to green and inspiring outdoor learning environments which many Milwaukee-area schoolyards currently lack. Commonly schoolyards are covered in crumbling asphalt, requiring costly repairs for MPS and detrimentally impacting the environment and health of the students, staff and the community. Access to green space in communities and schoolyards can result in better academic outcomes, increased engagement and enthusiasm, improved social-emotional skills and decreased childhood obesity. Additionally, the conversion of pavement to green space provides stormwater management, urban biodiversity, community engagement and meaningful STEM curricular connections. The redevelopment design for the schoolyards includes green infrastructure, recreational improvements, outdoor educational improvements and other functional features. Stormwater Solution Engineering, LLC (SSE) has a mission of improving built and natural environments within and for communities through sustainable engineering and design. Through our mission we help to create accessible green environments along with local officials, developing ideal solutions everyday issues. This project is funded through different grant sources and fundraising groups that contributed to various elements of the project: stormwater management, education, design alternates, etc. As designers, it was a challenge to craft a design that would fit within each of the schools’ vision of a redevelopment that also fit their allocated budgets. Each school was unique, had their own curriculum and teachers that had different priorities and overall intended uses for their space. The Design Team worked closely with all of the project managers and schools to design outdoor spaces that would engage students and provide stormwater benefits to the surrounding communities. Reflo, a nonprofit organization, runs a robust Green & Healthy Schools Program that has helped shepherd green infrastructure projects at 22 Milwaukee Public Schools. They have consistently worked with five Milwaukee-area schools per year in an intensive, collaborative process to design greener, healthier schoolyards. Alongside the MPS Sustainability Project Manager and the dedicated Green Teams, this organization works at various schools to design conceptual plans for their vision and secure funding through grants and donations.