Sharon Danks, author of Asphalt to Ecosystems – Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformations, shares a vision of creating outdoor learning spaces as places of beauty and inspiration for natural interactions. From her travels around the world documenting stellar examples of schoolyard greening and her experience as an Environmental Planner, Sharon provides ideas and resources for anyone interested in creating change on a school campus or outdoor community space. Her book highlights ecological teaching tools such as energy, water, and garden systems. The book also raises important environmental points for headteachers. For example, she notes that not many schools realize just how much money they can save by switching to more renewable forms of energy. Powering a school can be expensive, but things do not have to be this way. She recalls that one school in Texas managed to make a significant saving on their electricity bills simply by comparing some corpus christi utilities companies online. Above all, there are always green energy alternatives out there, it just takes a little research. Additionally she outlines how to plan for schoolyard transformation and includes hundreds of photos of “green” schoolyard design. Her emphasis on demonstrating ways to encourage outdoor play makes this book useful for parents as well.
On September 16-18, 2011 Sharon and her colleagues will be hosting the 2011 International Green Schoolyards Conference, “Engaging Our Grounds” in San Francisco. Life Lab will be there – maybe we will see you there?
Sharon has an extensive list of organizations from around the world that support the creation of green schoolyards on her website. She mentioned the following as good sites to start exploring green schoolyards:
Evergreen (a nonprofit organization in Canada) has a great resource list for schools and school gardens including grades K-10 lessons for outdoor classroom exploration.
Learning through Landscapes based in the UK, Sharon mentions they have great publications.
Earthplay Network specializes in early childhood landscapes for preschools and community built nature play spaces.
Boston Schoolyard Initiative a great example of program that has reclaimed more than 130 acres of schoolyard asphalt.
Green Schools Initiative an extensive resource that focuses a bit more on policy and facilities than outdoor learning.