Opened in the fall of 1956, F.P. Tillman Elementary School was named in honor of Frank P. Tillman, Kirkwood Superintendent of Schools from 1924-47. The west end of the building is the original structure, which expanded with middle and east sections added in 1951. A gymnasium was built in 1964. In 1987, a three-floor classroom addition was added to the back of the building. Six new classrooms in a one-floor addition were built in 1993.
Renovations resulting from a tax/bond issue in 1993 included a new gymnasium, renovation of the old gym into a cafeteria/auditorium, technology infrastructure, air conditioning, ADA compliance, and interior upgrades. In 2005, a two-part bond initiative funded improvements at Tillman that included new domestic/fire mains, new fire alarm system, replacement of restroom pipes, tuck pointing, exterior door replacements, and asphalt sealing.
During the 2012-2013 school year, Tillman Elementary educators, students, and community members undertook the challenge to “Dream BIG” and imagined numerous ways to make Tillman more sustainable and bring classroom learning outside. The PTO Sustainability Committee was formed, and hosted an all-school design charrette to develop a student-centered master plan for changes to the outdoor landscape. From those discussions, conceptual plans were drawn and the dreams were made real on paper. This venture eventually took on the moniker Project IGNITE.
In the years that followed, outdoor education areas were expanded at Tillman and classroom schedules were adjusted to block time for outdoor learning at all grade levels, including district-wide science curriculum that supported outdoor, experiential learning and open-ended instruction. Student-directed service learning clubs formed that were focused on sustainability and outdoor resources. Tillman's school gardens grew with support from nearly all teachers and grade levels. Eventually, four chickens joined the Tillman family as part of the new and expanding outdoor learning spaces.
During the 2017-2018 school year, Tillman took a huge leap toward a bold vision of dynamic learning landscapes capable of supporting many inquisitive learners every day of the year. Project IGNITE was fully realized with construction of the following: (1) a large pavillion that now serves as an all-weather gathering/learning space (2) a dry-rock creek bed and bioswale field drainage system (3) a large-scale rain garden (4) a natural and up-cycled play area (logs, rocks, mounds, tractor tires, etc.) to encourage play (5) an outdoor performing stage (6)The planting of a native prairie, which invites birds, butterflies, and other critters to enthrall and engage our students. Project IGNITE was funded through PTO fundraising efforts, in-kind donations, multiple grants, and some help from the Kirkwood School District Maintenance Fund (to repair field drainage issues)