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Cool Schools Program – Outdoor Learning Areas

Creating outdoor learning areas and healthier campuses

Overview

Did you know that school campuses in Dallas are some of the hottest and least shaded urban heat islands in North Texas?

Dallas has one of the most challenging urban climates in the United States and has been ranked 8th by the American Lung Association for the worst air quality in the nation for ozone and non attainment for the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards. This air quality situation affects over  89,000 children in Dallas.

The overarching goal of this program is to increase the tree canopy on Dallas ISD campuses from an average of 7% to a minimum of 20%, so we can help address all of these issues while providing an educational and healthy learning environment for students and staff.

History

Texas Trees Foundation launched it’s Cool Schools Program in early 2016 to provide outdoor learning centers and enhanced tree canopies on Dallas ISD elementary campuses that will ultimately serve to educate our children on the benefits of trees in healthier outdoor environments, and to reduce the urban heat island effect through the cooling effects of improved tree canopies.

Texas Trees Foundation is committed to environmental stewardships, especially for children through educational outreach efforts.  Thanks to a generous grant from the Boone Family Foundation, we are creating greener schools by:

  • Expanding tree canopy cover
  • Creating outdoor learning environments
  • Providing Dallas ISD approved, STEM-based curriculum
  • Enhanced experiential learning

We launched this program to for the health and well-being of Dallas ISD students and to provide solutions to deal with the effects of the urban heat island effect in the area.

On an index of U.S. large cities heating up the fastest, surprisingly, Dallas is second to Phoenix, Arizona.  Presently, 70% of Dallas area elementary schools have less than seven percent tree canopy, while a minimum of 27% tree canopy is recommended to reduce exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays and air pollution.  Texas Trees Foundation’s State of the Dallas Urban Forest Report confirmed that area school campuses are in dire need of improved tree canopies.

Goals

Our goal is a greener and healthier environment for 151 Dallas ISD elementary schools that will link indoor classrooms with outdoor learning for students and teachers. Ultimately, we intend to  plant 15,000 or more new trees and shrubs to substantially increase the overall tree canopy in the City of Dallas.

Our first two pilot projects were the campuses of Felix Botello Elementary and Onesimo Hernandez Elementary Schools.  With the help of students, teachers, and volunteers, we successfully planted a total of 176 trees and created a curriculum-based landscape design for outdoor learning centers.