San Francisco Unified School District

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Miller Company has created green schoolyards at 30+ elementary and middle schools in the San Francisco Unified School District. These natural outdoor learning environments transform not only the school grounds but the school communities as well. We began our work with the SFUSD in 2006 at Sherman Elementary School. In a major feature at this site, we used Sierra granite boulders to create a riparian area with a hillside waterfall, the only one of its kind at a San Francisco schoolyard. The project also includes edible and native plant gardens, pollinator habitats, several outdoor classrooms, and a network of pathways.   

In our continued work with the SFUSD, each green schoolyard is a unique environment shaped by the school’s setting and resources and the interests of the school community. These projects enhance each school’s educational facilities, connect children with the outdoors, and provide new chances for creative play. At all our SFUSD projects community involvement has been crucial in extending the small budgets and creating a sense of pride and stewardship.  We use “barn-raising” strategies to involve community members in planting and other installation tasks. We have repeatedly seen our schoolyard projects transform school communities, creating a lasting sense of engagement. 


Working with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the San Francisco Unified School District, Miller Company designed and built rainwater harvesting gardens at Lafayette, Miraloma and Starr King elementary schools. The gardens were funded through a program of the SFPUC to foster public education about stormwater management and watershed protection. 

The rainwater harvesting gardens reduce stormwater runoff from each schoolyard, green the schoolyards with native and edible plants, and irrigate plantings with captured rainwater. Interpretive signage explains the function and purpose of each garden element. Strategies developed for these rainwater harvesting gardens have been incorporated into the Tap the Sky program, an initiative of Education Outside (a non-profit affiliate of the SFUSD, dedicated to supporting outdoor learning areas for San Francisco schools.)

Each rainwater harvesting garden is designed for the unique conditions of the individual school:  
• At Lafayette Elementary School, rainwater is stored in a 3,000-gallon cistern and channeled through a concrete rill to irrigate the new native and edible plantings. An outdoor classroom provides space for environmental education.
• At Miraloma Elementary School, rainwater is collected from the greenhouse roof in a series of cisterns. The outdoor classroom space includes project tables and semi-circular bench seating. A bird and butterfly garden of flowering native plants shelters the classroom area from the street.  
• At Starr King Elementary School, rainwater is collected into a cistern on the terrace level below the garden. Students use a manual rotary pump adjacent to the garden to draw water up from the cistern.  



Owner: San Francisco Unified School District
SFUSD Green Schoolyards advocates: Education Outside