Your Greening School Ground Project
Many school ground improvement initiatives include ‘greening’ projects. We know instinctively that children thrive in natural settings with opportunities to engage all their senses in exploration of nature, with a growing body of research supporting this. ‘Green’ or natural areas have great play value and promote children’s physical, mental, emotional and social development (see Children and Nature). They can also be cost effective and environmentally sustainable. In addition, they provide important learning opportunities that can be successfully linked to curriculum (see Resources).
Greening school grounds projects can be as simple as a ‘no mow’ area or planting native trees and shrubs. Many schools start with a small project or two and then develop their grounds over time, as funding becomes available (see Funders). This is an excellent way to proceed.
We are fortunate that many schools in New Brunswick have natural areas on or adjacent to school property that, with a little enhancement, make wonderful learning spaces. But even schools with limited outdoor space can be transformed into exciting, educational spaces with a little creativity.
How to Begin
We suggest you bring together a team of interested teachers, principal, parents, community members – and students! Have a good look at your school grounds and identify natural features that could be highlighted, as well as areas you would like to transform. Brainstorm about the types of projects that your school community would like. Some schools want nature trails and woodland seating areas. Others want students to learn about growing food and so build vegetable gardens. Go with your strengths and come up with a plan that will work for your school (Learning Outside can help you!). It’s a good idea to think ‘big picture’ and then break down your plan into projects that can be achieved in stages, building on your successes. Don’t forget that in addition to beautifying your school grounds and creating play areas for children and habitat for wildlife, you will be enhancing learning opportunities across all subject areas for your students (and teachers!).
For inspiration, check out our Success Stories.
The websites below offer some great ideas, design principles, guidelines, and more for your school ground greening and outdoor classroom projects.
Evergreen (Canada) is a generous funder of school ground greening projects and also has some excellent information on greening projects, including planning, designing and carrying out various types of projects.
Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds is an Ontario-based landscape design firm that creates nature-based play spaces. They created a 2.5 acre site in Fundy National Park in 2014, which includes a zip line, climbing walls and a massive chunk of black walnut, serving as a jungle gym.
See their website for inspirational photos and project ideas.
Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds
Asphalt to Ecosystems (Sharon Gamson Danks) – book and accompanying website
Developing Great Schoolyards: A Handbook for Elementary Schools (October 2011, 21st Century School Fund, Washington, DC; 31 pages; free PDF)
Here are just some of their resources:
Natural Learning Initiative, North Carolina State University, College of Design, helps communities create stimulating places for play, learning, and environmental education through environmental design, action research, education, and dissemination of information.
Nature Play and Learning, a partnership between the Natural Learning Initiative and the National Wildlife Federation. The Guidelines (below) and other resources are available on the website.
Asphalt to Ecosystems
NATIONAL WILDLIFE FEDERATION
Grun macht Schule
additional site links
Your Environmental Trust Fund at Work