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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