Green Schoolyards Offer Physical and Mental Health Benefits for Children

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.

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A New Declaration States that Risk-Taking is Essential for Kids’ Development

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.

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Green Schoolyard Transformation in Boston

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.


  • 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.

GIS analysis of urban schoolyard landcover in three U.S. cities

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.

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Green schoolyards as havens from stress and resources for resilience in childhood and adolescence

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.

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