Standing in the center of their asphalt schoolyard Monday, the students of Higginson-Lewis K-8 School chanted the opening line of their school song: “Everyone needs a chance to sing a song and a place to dance a dance.”
Soon, there will a new space for them to dance and play.
Higginson-Lewis students, staff, and Roxbury residents came together to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new playground at the school, the last to have its outdoor space renovated as part of Boston’s Schoolyard Initiative, a public-private partnership that has revitalized 84 schoolyards,130 acres of asphalt, into recreational spaces since 1995.
As a chorus of young voices shouted “1, 2, 3!” in the morning heat, two teachers dug shovels into a symbolic dirt pile in the center of the schoolyard and gave the soil a toss, while the crowd cheered.
In 2012, the initiative was awarded $454,000 in funds from the city and collaborating nonprofits to renovate schoolyards at eight public schools in the Boston area, including the Higginson-Lewis.
“This playground is important because we talk a lot about school quality,” said Higginson-Lewis principal Joy Salesman-Oliver. “We need to show our community we are proud to be here and make this the best place for our kids. They deserve it.”
Right now, the asphalt paving Higginson-Lewis’s schoolyard is faded and cracked, and the basketball hoop bears a thick coat of rust. But that will be different by September, when the court will have a spongy surface with printed number games and designs, a new basketball hoop, a jungle gym and slides, sitting areas for parents, and outdoor tables with built-in chess and checker boards.
The schoolyard “could be better, because right now it’s a little ugly,” said 7-year-old Herly Ramirez. “But now we are turning it wonderful.”
Students will also enjoy an outdoor classroom with wooden tables for science experiments and a raised stage for school performances and presentations.
In addition, the school will build a community garden where students can grow their own vegetables.
“I want a big park; we’ll be able to run, have extra balls, maybe slide down some slides,” said second-grader Kaylon Norman as he jumped up and down.
The new spaces bring opportunity for play and learning, as well, said Lena Reddick, who oversees the school’s community partnerships.
“The outside spaces will open up children’s thought processes,” Reddick said. “We live in an urban area where kids don’t have the opportunity to see ants and worms or grow their own veggies.”