SPARK Parks across the city offer outdoor recreation for schools and communities alike

The SPARK Park at Pasadena ISD’s Jessup Elementary School was dedicated in November 2017.

As the mild temperatures of spring in Texas tempt most everyone outside, students in schools within the Pasadena suburbs have even more reason to want to get out and play – nine SPARK parks have been unveiled or are in stages of development just outside classroom doors.

In 2016, the Kinder Foundation and Houston Endowment gifted SPARK, a non-profit which develops parks and greenspaces on school grounds, $5 million to bring parks and playgrounds to neighborhoods across the region. Today, many of these much-anticipated parks are now a reality.

Dr. DeeAnn Powell, superintendent of schools for Pasadena ISD noted that when many of their schools were designed, playgrounds simply weren’t able to be a priority due to cost, regulations, and maintenance issues – despite the known benefits of playing outside on the development of children.

“Playing outside, the students are so happy,” said Powell. “They are building relationships and exercising and there is an impact on academics.”

From award announcement to completion, the process of designing and building a new park takes approximately nine to 12 months.  The schools typically hold fundraisers to contribute to their park and are involved in guiding the look and feel of the space.

“The parks are very personal to each school,” said Powell.

The impact of these parks, which may feature walking tracks, trails and trees, extend beyond the school day and are envisioned to be true community spaces providing a welcoming destination where grandparents can play with grandchildren during a weekend visit or parents of younger kids can let their toddlers explore the outdoors. Driving past several of her district’s schools during the recent spring break, Powell noticed families using the parks, proof they truly are adding value to the community beyond school hours, just as they were intended.

Additional SPARK parks in the Aldine, Fort Bend, and Spring Branch school districts will open in Spring 2018. Read more about SPARK.

The SPARK Park at Pasadena ISD’s Jessup Elementary School was dedicated in November 2017.