by Marsha Rakestraw
You only have to watch kids in a garden or park to know that we humans have a special connection with the natural world.
Studies have shown that we benefit physically, emotionally, and mentally (including academically) from our interactions with nature. Yet except for a hemmed-in tree here or there, or a bit of lawn, much of our built environment is devoid of this core element of our well-being.
Educators have long known the benefits of connecting kids with nature, and more schools are starting to respond by greening their schoolyards.
Asphalt lots are being transformed into gardens, nature trails, mini-ecological systems, and models of sustainability.
According to environmental planner Sharon Gamson Danks, who works with schools to transform their school grounds, “… schoolyard greening creates rich environments that connect nature and environmental sustainability with place-based learning, hands-on curricula, and imaginative play, while building community.”
If your school is interested in getting in on the green, check out these eight resources to help get you started:
1. The Edible Schoolyard Project
ESP offers resources for starting school gardens and other similar projects, as well as curriculum ideas, research about the positive effects of garden-based programs, and more.
2. Education Outside
Education Outside, a “service corps” organization dedicated to “advancing science in public schools, outdoors” and transforming “school gardens into lush, living laboratories where learning comes naturally” in the San Francisco area.
3. The Green Schools Initiative
While their mission is broader than just the schoolyard, they have a helpful checklist and audit for assessing and creating green schoolyards.
4. Green Schoolyards: A Growing Movement Supporting Health, Education and Connection With Nature
This report “documents the journeys and lessons of green schoolyard programs across the country and is informed by a rich dialogue that has been taking place at the national and local levels about how to help children, families, schools, communities and our environment thrive.”
5. Green Schoolyards America
This site offers consulting services, as well as a resource center full of information and tips for helping green your schoolyard.
6. The Green Schoolyards Resource Hub
The Children & Nature Network has curated numerous resources and tools to help with planning and implementing green schoolyard programs, including “making the case,” finding finding, implementing the project, and evaluating impact.
7. Green Teacher Schoolyard Greening
Green Teacher has collected articles from their journal that are relevant to creating school gardens and other green spaces. (Note that membership is needed to view some of the articles.)
8. International School Grounds Alliance
This network of organizations offers resources and information for enriching “children’s learning and play by improving the way school grounds are designed and used.”
Find more resources about helping connect kids with the natural world via our curated Pinterest board.