Impact of Schoolyards to Playgrounds Renovations on Academic Performance and Health of New York City Students

The researchers are investigating the health and other impacts of the New York City (NYC) Schoolyards to Playgrounds (S2P) program, a partnership between the NYC Departments of Education and Parks and the Trust for Public Land (TPL), that renovates and opens schoolyards to the public as playgrounds. They aim to measure the impact of the program on the academic performance and health of NYC students and to assess differential impact based on level of investment.

Research Question(s)

Do green playground renovations:

  1. Impact health outcomes and academic performance in NYC students?;
  2. Mitigate exposures to air pollution, noise, and temperature?; and/or
  3. Impact community-level health and safety outcomes?


  • Inform policies that promote greenspace and playground access for students and community members
  • Allow municipalities and school districts to better weigh the costs and benefits to compare between policy alternatives when faced with limited resources
  • Aid in optimizing future siting locations for green playground renovations and improving designs to maximize the return on future investments


Health & Wellbeing: Student-level fitness data (physical fitness, body mass index) and respiratory health (allergies and asthma); community health (annual hospitalization rates)

Other: Student-level academic performance (test scores, absenteeism, graduation rates); air pollution, noise, and temperature; community safety (crime rates)


The researchers are employing a longitudinal quasi-experimental difference-in-differences (DID) study design, applying mixed-effects regressions to compare playground sites with randomly selected control sites (one-to-many treatment-control matching scheme) matched by borough/neighborhood or by propensity scores, and adjusting for yearly changes in school-level/neighborhood-level demographics and environmental exposures. Effects of green playground renovations on students’ health and academic performance will be evaluated in two ways: 1) estimating the overall impact of green playground renovations on the outcomes; and 2) assessing the separate effects associated with specific aspects of green playgrounds such as the types and numbers of green features and playground equipment across different level of renovations on the individual-level outcomes.

Image of children playing on playground equipment.
Grantee and Partner organizations

University of Arizona
Yale University
New York University
State University of New York
New York City Department of Education and Office of School Health
The Trust for Public Land

Grant status
In Progress
Principal investigators
Chris Lim, PhD
Start date
Award amount
36 months

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