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What if I told you that outdoor classrooms could raise your school’s achievement scores? Even better: there are grants to help you do so.

Years ago, before she owned a playground company, our owner Lauren Knight was a high school special education teacher in New Orleans. The hallways and many classrooms had no windows, the building had poor ventilation, a consistently broken HVAC system, and harsh fluorescent lighting. The school and her colleagues made the best of what they had. Whenever possible she created her own outdoor classroom by bringing her students to the football bleachers. Her students thrived learning outdoors. They engaged and focused in the natural light with fresh air. But, the glaring Louisiana sun made that difficult to do most of the year.

Outdoor Classrooms Can Double Cognitive Functioning

The benefits Lauren’s students felt were not unique.  One study of 21,000 U.S. elementary students showed that, over one school year, kids who were exposed to more sunlight during their school day displayed 26% higher reading outcomes and 20% higher math outcomes than kids in less sunny classrooms. Another interesting study demonstrated that healthier air quality (in the form of low CO2 levels) can double cognitive functioning. This teacher’s personal account highlights that nature increases happiness and she addresses some of steps educators can take to make the transition to outside more feasible. Imagine the impact that more outdoor classrooms would have on students’ academic growth, achievement, health, and overall happiness. 

Shade Structure Grants

The American Academy of Dermatologists have opened their $8,000 shade grants for the 2020 year. The AAD awards their shade grants to schools, day-cares, parks, and other non-profit organizations for installing permanent shade structures where children learn and play. Each shade grant award is a maximum of $8,000, which includes the cost for shade structure materials and installation. There are so many sizes and configurations to choose from. Check out some of our sample outdoor classroom plans.

Lauren started Pelican Playgrounds because every child thrives when given ample opportunity to be outside and play. She is ready to lend her grant writing (and teaching outdoors) experience to Pelican Playgrounds customers. She can work with you on the application, design, quote, and installation of a shade structure for your playground or outdoor classrooms. Give her a call on her cell for questions or 1-on-1 support: 504-909-6544. You can also reach her via email at:

Our Facebook page has the shade grant pinned to the top of our page. Follow us to stay up-to-date on grant opportunities!