Urban planners, architects and designers around the world are looking to make cities spongier -- using nature-based solutions to better absorb water. In dense cities like New York, where open space is scarce, officials are rethinking a neighborhood mainstay: the school playground – and with good reason: studies have linked vegetation in schoolyards to better school-wide academic performance, with researchers linking the improvements in academic achievement to green schoolyards’ ability to decrease stress and mental fatigue, increase physical activity, and foster more creative play during recess. The new schoolyard at Shuang Wen, a grade school in Manhattan’s Chinatown, features new play equipment, a yoga circle, a stage and basketball and tennis courts -- and also a porous turf field that can capture an estimated 1.3 million gallons of stormwater runoff! The best part? The students helped design the new schoolyard through discussions, surveys, and votes. Denk from TPL, who has worked with dozens of schools to upgrade yards, is impressed: “When students are given the chance to do the right thing for their environment and their community, they will choose that, and that motivation carries forward in terms of how they see themselves as environmental actors and in relation to climate change.”

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