In 2008 RCM pledged $100,000 to help restore the Brown Street Academy school yard—an important neighborhood MPS grade school in the heart of Milwaukee.  Through the generosity of an RCM member, this gift was increased to $125,000. The BSA schoolyard is part of the Greater Johnsons Park initiative, which also includes Alice’s Garden, a community garden adjacent to the schoolyard.


The north schoolyard at Brown Street Academy represents a well-utilized play space that accommodates school recess activities, after school and summer programs, and community recreation. The acreage is slightly less than one city block of open space that is publicly accessible year-round.



Brown Street Academy playground before renovation.


The Center for Resilient Cities worked with various partners, including Milwaukee Public Schools and the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, to develop and implement a two-phase construction plan for north schoolyard revitalization. The project transformed a 1.7-acre asphalt expanse into a park-like setting, and provides amenities that enhance aesthetic value, foster programmed and creative play, and encourage outdoor learning.


The first phase of construction occurred in 2010, when over one-half acre of impervious asphalt was converted into a vibrant haven for outdoor education. Unlike a traditional playground, the Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom™ functions as an open-air teaching space that promotes self-discovery and interactive learning in a natural setting.


The Classroom is divided into distinct activity areas, and employs the use of natural materials such as stone, wood and native flora. “Stations” dispersed throughout the site facilitate staged performances, visual art production, vegetable gardening, motor skill development and scientific experimentation. In turn, opportunities to engage in visual observation, social interaction, and tangible modes of learning are made available to students.



Brown Street Academy playground after renovation.


In fall of 2011, the remainder of the schoolyard was renovated, thereby supplementing benefits of the Outdoor Classroom. The schoolyard is furnished with approximately three-dozen trees, seating for up to 36 children, basketball courts, markings for games, and natural surfaces that extend through half of the site.


Rotary’s partnership with BSA goes beyond the school yard – our members serve as mentors and homework coaches.  Rotarians have also participated in school fairs, mural painting, the purchase of sports equipment, and the reinstatement of an art teacher proposed to be cut as a budget measure.


RCM is happy to be part of the transformation of this 13 acre desolate space  into a place that is safe for the community to gather and for children to play and learn.


For more information, go to the Center for Resilient Cities website.