Research presented at the 2017 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition finds that green schoolyards bring families and communities together in a healthy environment. For this study, researchers summarized the peer-reviewed scientific literature documenting green schoolyard benefits to academic outcomes, beneficial play, physical activity, and mental health.
A new declaration from the International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA) states that, while promoting risk-taking on school grounds may raise questions of liability for schools and concerns for parents, it is essential for the development of healthy young people. The declaration, which was made available in 13 different languages, cites research from around the world demonstrating the benefits of risk-taking and showing that an indiscriminate risk-minimization policy can be a source of harm.
While the academic benefits of school gardens for students have become more widely accepted in recent years, the social and emotional benefits are often overlooked. Yet, numerous studies of school gardens show improvements in students’ feelings of well-being and therefore, ability to learn.
Between 1995 and 2013, the Boston Schoolyard Initiative (BSI) transformed Boston's schoolyards from barren asphalt lots into dynamic centers for recreation, learning and community life. School-by-school, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, BSI reached children, families, community members and teachers with vibrant outdoor spaces for increased physical activity and creative new approaches to using the schoolyard for teaching and learning. We accomplished our work through a public-private partnership between the City of Boston, Boston Public Schools and the Boston Schoolyard Funders Collaborative.
BSI’S IMPACT ON BOSTON’S NEIGHBORHOODS WAS PROFOUND:
- 88 schoolyards revitalized
- 30,000 school children reached
- 130 acres of asphalt reclaimed
Principals report that BSI schoolyards lead to increased physical activity (100%); improved student behavior (63.2%) and improved relationships with parents and community (73.7%).*
New outdoor classroom designs bring teaching outdoors and nature to the schoolyard. Green practices, including green roofs on tool shed and recycled rubber surfaces are now often a part of schoolyard design and construction. And BSI teaching resources and professional development help teachers revitalize instruction and motivate students to learn. BSI-designed Science in the Schoolyard and Outdoor Writers Workshop training reach teachers and whole faculties, creating teams of teachers within schools and across the district who incorporate the schoolyard into teaching and learning.
Schoolyards are dominated by turf grass and impervious surface Increasingly, research is demonstrating the benefits that green space can provide to children’s health and well-being and to environmental quality (e.g., reduced urban runoff and moderation of climate). Children spend about one third of their day at school; however, little is known about the actual physical structure of school property. In this study, Alexis Schulman and Catherine A. Peters classified and compared land cover on 258 U.S. public elementary and middle schoolyards in three major U.S. cities (Baltimore, Boston, and Detroit). The authors used aerial photographs from the mid- to late 1990s and Geographic Information System software to classify and analyze schoolyard landcover. Schulman and Peters found that, on average, schoolyards covered more than 68% of the school property and that they were dominated by turf grass and impervious surface, with very little tree cover (on average, less than 10%). The authors also found that schoolyard size had an important influence on cover type in that larger schoolyards tended to have lower levels of impervious surface. Schulman and Peters contend that the amount of tree cover found in most schoolyards is inadequate given health and environmental quality research findings to date. In concluding their article, the authors discuss important opportunities and obstacles to greening schoolyards and provide a number of recommendations.
Natural schoolyards decrease stress, strengthen attention, reduce behavior problems, and enhance factors associated with resilience in children of all ages
Research on stress, resilience, and benefits of contact with nature in children has historically been conducted in separate disciplines: medicine, clinical psychology, developmental psychology, environment and behavior. These disciplines are shown to be connected in the current study.
Stress and anxiety in children are increasingly prevalent, contributing to increased risk of many mental and physical health problems in adulthood as well as through their growing years. A range of protective factors is known to promote resilience in children. The purpose of this study was to explore how naturally-vegetated schoolyards can reduce stress in children and youth while also enhancing factors associated with development of resilience.
Wed, Sept 20, 7:00 – 8:30 PM
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Beyond Test Scores reframes current debates over school quality by offering new approaches to educational data that can push us past our unproductive fixation on test scores. Using the highly diverse urban school district of Somerville, Massachusetts, as a case study, Schneider and his research team developed a new framework to more fairly and comprehensively assess educational effectiveness. And by adopting a wide range of measures aligned with that framework, they were able to more accurately capture a broader array of school strengths and weaknesses. Their new data not only provided parents, educators, and administrators with a clearer picture of school performance, but also challenged misconceptions about what makes a good school.
About the Author
Jack Schneider is Assistant Professor of Education at the College of the Holy Cross and Director of Research for the Massachusetts Consortium for Innovative Education Assessment.
Children and adolescents need increased opportunities to participate together in both structured and unstructured play. In addition to the classroom-specific benefits, opportunities for play through participation in leisure and recreation activities, including recess, have been linked to more generalized benefits, such as enhanced self-esteem and self-confidence, the ability to combat negative peer pressure, enhanced quality of life, and increased social acceptance and integration into the community. Read more.