Cool Schools Initiative to Transform Schoolyards from “Gray to Green” in Yolo County, CA Through Strategic Partnerships

Award-winning Cool Schools Program scheduled for 10 campuses in Yolo County, California to increase tree canopy, build experiential learning areas, and provide nature-based education resources.

DALLAS (May 28, 2024) – The award-winning[1] Cool Schools Program™, developed by the national thought leader in schoolyard greening initiatives Texas Trees Foundation, is coming to 10 schools in West Sacramento and Woodland, California. The initiative, titled Cool Schools Yolo County, will build a more equitable educational experience for students by transforming schoolyards from “gray to green,” connecting students and teachers to nature through expansive tree planting and creating fun, experiential outdoor learning and play areas.

Funded via a grant by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s (CAL FIRE) Urban Community Forestry Program, Cool Schools Yolo County focuses on making a lasting environmental and educational impact in Washington Unified School District (WUSD) and Woodland Joint Unified School District (WJUSD), specifically. Tree planting organizations Tree Davis and the Woodland Tree Foundation have become invaluable partners in the Cool Schools initiative in Yolo County.

“Tree Davis is elated to be a part of the team that is bringing the Cool Schools Program to Yolo County. It is a unique opportunity to transform these 10 school campuses both physically and socially. As an organization that merges scientific knowledge with community action, we see this program as being essential to making both West Sacramento and Woodland more climate-ready for tomorrow and generations to come,” said Torin Dunnavant, Executive Director of Tree Davis.

The Yolo County program will physically transform five schoolyards in each district that qualify in accordance with CAL FIRE’s grant requirements, which prioritize greening initiatives in underserved communities with the highest socioeconomic need, fewest trees, and hottest climates.

“It’s difficult to overstate the impact nature has on an individual, especially children,” said Texas Trees Foundation President and CEO Janette Monear. “Texas Trees Foundation has had the honor to be a key driver and supporter of that impact for years through our Cool Schools Program™. Sharing our expertise in hands-on outdoor education with 10 schools in the Yolo County community is certain to deliver an immediate academic and health impact upon its students and teachers. As children spend more time outside, especially while learning—it fills the all-too-common nature deficit and cultivates knowledge and exploration of the natural environment.”

The Cool Schools Program™ provides nature-based solutions to address environmental challenges such as local air quality, watershed management and the urban heat island effect, which occurs when lack of tree coverage and excess of heat-absorbing materials like asphalt cause schoolyards to be some of the hottest places in communities. Currently, California school campuses average only 9% tree canopy.[2] Cool Schools Yolo County aims to increase tree canopy for each of the 10 campuses to 30%, which is anticipated to cool campuses up to 15 degrees on hot summer days and save significant costs in air conditioning services.

Founded on research that access to nature can replenish students’ attention resources more effectively and increase their ability to concentrate,[3] the Cool Schools Program™ creates more hands-on outdoor learning and play spaces for students.

Participating campuses in Cool Schools Yolo County will design these spaces in tandem with the Texas Trees Foundation to meet the unique needs of their student and teacher body. Design elements may include amphitheaters, natural playgrounds, nature trails and green infrastructure like rain gardens, pocket forests, and arboretums.

“Planting and caring for trees is the joyful part of Woodland Tree Foundation’s civic leadership and service to the community. We are honored to team up with Texas’ Trees Foundation and their Cool Schools Program™ for the benefit of Woodland kids. Planting many more trees and shrubs at the selected elementary school campuses, with the involvement of each school community, will benefit our environment. It will be great for young children to be able to learn in a dedicated outdoor area and get excited about the many benefits of trees,” said David Wilkinson, Program Coordinator of Woodland Tree Foundation.

Additionally, the initiative will supply students with age-appropriate, STEM-focused educational materials they can use in the new outdoor spaces – like coloring books, scavenger hunts, living lab greenery, and interactive curricula related to trees.

“We are thankful for this unique opportunity that will help to enhance and complement our upcoming Measure Y school improvement projects,” said WJUSD Superintendent Elodia Ortega-Lampkin. “We look forward to being among the first schools in California to adopt this innovative program. We are thankful for our Board and community members for valuing environmentally friendly outdoor learning spaces for our students.”

“For Washington USD, Cools Schools Yolo County is a testament to our leadership’s commitment to pursuing outside-the-box opportunities that will enhance our students’ educational experience,” said WUSD Superintendent Dr. Cheryl P. Hildreth. “This is a student-centric, collaborative, forward-thinking endeavor that every member of our community should be excited about. Giving our students the ability to learn outdoors, which is proven to enhance academic performance and critical thinking skills, is invaluable.”

Texas Trees Foundation will steer the Cool Schools Yolo County initiative, working with local urban forestry nonprofits Tree Davisand Woodland Tree Foundation to help facilitate the program at each campus. All design will be handled by Studio Outside.

The planning and design phase will begin immediately with design approval anticipated by the end of the year. Construction at each campus is expected to begin in 2025 with completion in spring 2026.

Learn more about Cool Schools Yolo County and stay updated with the initiative at

Texas Trees Foundation launched its Cool Schools Program™ in Dallas in 2015. To date, the program has been implemented in 32 schools with an additional 20 sites planned, serving more than 20,000 students.



About Cool Schools Yolo County

Cool Schools Yolo County connects students and teachers to nature by transforming school campuses through tree planting and the creation of fun, experiential outdoor learning and play areas. The award-winning Cool Schools Program™ promotes environmental stewardship and aims to nurture a life-long love of exploration and appreciation for the natural environment. Funding for Cool Schools Yolo County is provided by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s (CAL FIRE) Urban and Community Forestry Program. Developed by Texas Trees Foundation, the program is a partnership between the Tree Davis, Washington Unified School District, Woodland Joint Unified School District and Woodland Tree Foundation. Learn more at

About Texas Trees Foundation
Celebrating 40 years of addressing urban forestry issues in Dallas, the Texas Trees Foundation has served as a catalyst in creating a reimagined green legacy for North Texas. Scientific research has led our vision of transforming outdoor spaces into greener, cleaner, cooler and healthier communities, while educating the public of the social, economic, environmental, and health benefits that trees provide. For more information on Texas Trees Foundation and its programs and projects, visit

About Tree Davis

Tree Davis was established by community leaders in 1992 to improve the urban forests of the

communities in Yolo County and surrounding areas. Over the past 30 years the organization has merged strong scientific knowledge with community action to create healthier and more resilient communities. This is accomplished by growing Climate-Ready Landscapes and robust urban forests with residents and stakeholders.

About Washington Unified School District

Washington Unified School District (WUSD) is the premier provider of high-quality education in West

Sacramento with a deliberate commitment to Equity, Excellence, and Empowerment for Every Student,

Every Day. WUSD serves nearly 7,500 students across eight TK-8 schools and three high schools. The

district offers innovative opportunities, including Free College Savings Accounts for kindergarteners,

Spanish Dual Language Immersion, Visual & Performing Arts, Career Technical Education, AVID, MESA,

Before and After School Care, and more. For additional information, please visit


About Woodland Joint Unified District (WJUSD)

WJUSD proudly serves nearly 10,000 students from preschool through adult education in the communities of Woodland, Knights Landing, Yolo, and Zamora.

About Woodland Tree Foundation

The Woodland Tree Foundation is a non-profit organization run by volunteers dedicated to improving Woodland through the planting of trees. Our motto is Building Community Through Canopy. In June 2000, a group of Woodland leaders came together to achieve a clear set of goals:

  • To Educate residents, local government, schools, local businesses and others in the community
  • about the health, economic, and environmental benefits of a healthy tree canopy in Woodland
  • To Plant and care for trees to beautify and cool Woodland streets and public spaces
  • To Partner with the City, community groups, schools, businesses and individuals to stretch
  • dollars and other resources on behalf of trees



[3] Francis Norwood, M., Lakhani, A., & Kendall, E. (2021). Teaching traditional indoor school lessons in nature: The effects on student learning and behaviour. Landscape and Urban Planning, 206, 103963.
Cool School Cali Icon
Tree Davis
Color_studioOutside_300 dpi
Woodland Joint Unified School District
Washington Unified School District
Scroll to Top