getting colorado youth active

over the past two months we have been hard at work developing the middle school outdoor learning environments grant for the colorado health foundation's (CHF) healthy living funding category. we began this process late last year and have been working non-stop writing a letter of intent (LOI) to better understand the need for middle school play environments across colorado. we have simultaneously been writing the final application which will give selected applicants a change to dig deeper and give us more detailed information about their school and why they deserve funding. lastly we have developed an evaluation tool to help the CHF collect, sort, and select the final grant recipients. these selected schools will receive funding to design and build outdoor learning environments targeted at middle school youth. 

the goal for this grant is to gain a better understanding of outdoor play and learning environments for middle schoolers. ultimately we will be awarding funds to 3-4 projects later this year in the hopes of creating holistic and comprehensive playscapes that target middle school youth and encourage life-long healthy habits. the LOI application closed last monday and we are already moving forward into the evaluation phase, using the application's information to categorize each school into three major categories. we are becoming acutely aware of the staggering number of deserving schools in our state - which can be reflected in the 55 applicants that took the time to submit a LOI. we have seen a wide variety of schools and applicants from large district affiliates to small private charters, both with unique challenges and goals. as we begin to dig a little deeper and narrow down farther, we hope to spark a conversation about the need for encouraging and age appropriate playscapes that positively impact our youth and establish healthy choices early in life. we also hope to increase environmental awareness among this group of youth to establish a connection to nature at a young age. 

our next steps are to finish evaluating each applicant and then produce a summary report for the CHF which will include our recommendations of schools to proceed to the final application. since this is the first cycle for this grant we hope to make the maximum impact by completing a smaller number of projects, but are hopeful that the cycle will be open again either later this year for a second cycle or will re-open again next year at the same time. this evaluation and selection process has been extremely labor intensive and eye opening thus far and we wish that we were able to fund each one of these deserving schools. we are astounded at the magnitude of schools that lack play opportunities for students and are in need of help. however, we strongly believe that by starting strong with a few great projects, we will be able to make a bigger impact and begin to improve the conditions of middle school playscapes across colorado one school at a time. we hope to measure the successes of each project upon completion and will use this information to establish best management practices for future middle school play environment projects. please check back with us in the next few months for updates about grant awardees and the beginning of the planning phase. 

Maggie Fryke