2019 Bay Area Principals' Institute Launched!

On Friday, March 8th, 2019, a group of school principals, school district leaders, and public agency staff met in San Francisco at the headquarters of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission for the first seminar of the 2019 Bay Area Principals’ Institute.

First offered in 2016, the Green Schoolyards America Principals’ Institute supports school administrators in their pivotal role as leaders of their school community and champions of a healthy and dynamic school environment. Over the course of this year-long program, our staff will provide resources, advice, and professional development to support participating principals and school district leaders in adopting and sustaining comprehensive, high quality, green schoolyard programs at their schools and in their districts.

Through the Institute’s seminars and schoolyard learning walks, participants will also develop connections and relationships with other professionals in their own districts and beyond, who can help support their green schoolyard work. The 2019 Bay Area cohort includes three local school districts, as well as a number of independent schools in the area. Our program also often includes participants from partner agencies and nonprofit organizations. We have already seen results from the connections made on the first day of this year’s program and we look forward to growing this network and “community of practice” as the Institute progresses.

Over the course of the year-long Institute, we will cover a wide range of green schoolyard topics focused on the question of how to make the most of school ground land for PreK-12 students’ learning, play and health, community engagement, and ecological resilience.

Sarah Bloom, a watershed planner with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, gave a presentation about stormwater schoolyards during the first Seminar of the 2019 Bay Area Principals’ Institute.

Sarah Bloom, a watershed planner with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, gave a presentation about stormwater schoolyards during the first Seminar of the 2019 Bay Area Principals’ Institute.

Our first seminar on March 8th provided an overview of the green schoolyard field and introduced participants to the multitude of benefits that can be achieved by greening school grounds. Our CEO, Sharon Danks, shared inspiring case-studies from around the world and current trends within the global movement. Our Program Director, Dr. Raymond Isola, provided insights and examples of how schoolyard greening works in practice, from his own experience as an elementary school principal in San Francisco. SFPUC Watershed Planner, Sarah Bloom, gave a lively presentation about how greening school grounds and removing asphalt helps the SFPUC to manage San Francisco’s urban watersheds. During the last part of the day, our Program Manager, Erica Fine, led participants through a number of exercises to help them assess their own school grounds and existing policies and programs, to better understand the opportunities for green schoolyard improvement. This work will serve as the foundation of their individual green schoolyard projects, which help participants to apply what they learn to their own contexts.

The next seminar for our Bay Area Principals’ Institute cohort is May 3rd, and will focus on how to use school grounds to improve health and well-being. In the meantime, we look forward to touring local school grounds with our participants to see examples of what green schoolyards look like on the ground.

Enrollment is now open for our 2019-2020 Principals’ Institute cohort in the Los Angeles region. Click here for more information about how to sign up!

We are grateful to our sponsors and partners for supporting the 2019 Bay Area Principals’ Institute!

Major sponsors:

Program sponsor: Indra Designs

If you or your organization are interested in supporting our Bay Area or Los Angeles Principals’ Institutes, please contact info@greenschoolyards.org.






Uneven Play: WHYY Explores the Need for More Playgrounds at Schools in Philadelphia

Two thirds of the playgrounds in Philadelphia don’t have a playground, and many look like this: acres of asphalt, very little shade, and cars parked where children could be playing.

Two thirds of the playgrounds in Philadelphia don’t have a playground, and many look like this: acres of asphalt, very little shade, and cars parked where children could be playing.

Philadelphia, PA – Green Schoolyards America’s CEO, Sharon Danks, traveled to Philadelphia on February 15th to join radio station WHYY and the local community in a conversation about the need for more playgrounds at Philly’s schools. More than 100 community members gathered for a lively event that included dinner, presentations, and a discussion.

Research conducted by WHYY’s journalist Nina Feldman uncovered the fact that two-thirds of Philadelphia’s public elementary schools don’t have playgrounds, and that the presence of playgrounds is highly correlated with income levels of each neighborhood. The lower income areas of the city do not have playgrounds, leaving children to play as they can on unimproved, unshaded asphalt that often doubles as parking space during the day—as shown in the photograph above.

WHYY’s Nina Feldman (left) interviewed local resident Antoinnette Reynolds about the need for more children’s play space in her neighborhood.

WHYY’s Nina Feldman (left) interviewed local resident Antoinnette Reynolds about the need for more children’s play space in her neighborhood.

During the event on February 15th, Feldman interviewed a grandparent (above) and her children about what the lack of playground space means for her family. Danks gave a presentation about the benefits that green schoolyards afford in other cities,, and advocated for greening school grounds in Philadelphia to provide improved learning and play spaces that will connect children with nature on a daily basis and offer a wide range of health benefits. Philadelphia School District Director of Capital Programs, Danielle Floyd, also spoke about the school district’s budget realities and their hopes for being able to improve playgrounds across the District.

Feldman then led a panel discussion with Danks, Floyd, and Plan Philly’s Managing Editor, Ariella Cohen, to discuss the future of building more playgrounds in Philadelphia.

We hope that this conversation and the high level of interest expressed by the local community will spark a shift in the way that the Philadelphia School District uses its grounds in the future.

For more information about this event and WHYY’s recent reporting about playgrounds in Philadelphia and San Francisco, please follow the links below.

February 9, 2019
WHYY Community Conversation: The push for playgrounds brings people together

February 6, 2019
Uneven Play: Why your neighborhood school probably doesn’t have a playground

February 6, 2019
San Francisco shares its schoolyards, opening communities to green spaces and one another’s lives

The community gathered in the Olney neighborhood of Philadelphia for a conversation about the future of playgrounds across the city.

The community gathered in the Olney neighborhood of Philadelphia for a conversation about the future of playgrounds across the city.


Press Release: OUSD School Board Passes Policies on Living Schoolyards and Environmental Education

Students working in the green environment at Hoover Elementary School in Oakland, CA. This School is not one of the pilot projects for the Living schoolyard initiative, but already has a wonderful garden that benefits students. Photo by Paige Green, © Green Schoolyards America

Students working in the green environment at Hoover Elementary School in Oakland, CA. This School is not one of the pilot projects for the Living schoolyard initiative, but already has a wonderful garden that benefits students. Photo by Paige Green, © Green Schoolyards America

Oakland, CA – On Wednesday, February 13th, the Oakland Unified School District’s Board of Education passed two complementary policies that will take the District down a path toward ensuring OUSD students are educated in greener environments and become environmentally literate and prepared to address the challenges of the future related to climate change.

“I want to thank the many community members who worked so hard on this effort,” said Board of Education Vice President, Jody London. “We couldn’t have done it without the support of important community partners such as The Trust For Public Land, Green Schoolyards America and the Sierra Club. The Living Schoolyards Initiative brings together teachers, staff, parents, students and the community in designing the environment they’d like to see.”

The Development of Living Schoolyards policy outlines OUSD’s vision to transform asphalt covered school grounds into living schoolyards that promote children’s health and well-being, while creating green and ecologically rich community parks that connect children and their neighborhoods to the natural world outside their classroom door, every day. The policy also provides a roadmap for implementing this plan, to create a successful transition to implement living schoolyards in all schools across the District.

A planning session for the greening project on the paved schoolyard at Markham Elementary School. Photo © Green Schoolyards America

A planning session for the greening project on the paved schoolyard at Markham Elementary School. Photo © Green Schoolyards America

“We are excited for the future of our schools and what this will mean for the children who play on these green yards,” said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “Imagine being students coming out of class at lunchtime onto a plain asphalt play yard. Young people can certainly have fun and get exercise there. But imagine the same students entering a yard that has been transformed into a park-like atmosphere with grass and trees. We expect it to change the way they view their world, and give them a deeper appreciation for the natural environment around them.”

The Environmental and Climate Change Literacy policy acknowledges that climate change is the “greatest challenge facing future generations,” and commits the District to integrating climate literacy into the curriculum by providing resources and training to teachers. The Policy encourages OUSD to align its curriculum with state standards and provide action-oriented projects that help create schools that can be sustainability hubs for our communities.

Photo by Paige Green, © Green Schoolyards America

Photo by Paige Green, © Green Schoolyards America

“Green Schoolyards America works to ensure that all children have access to nature every day on park-like school grounds designed for education, health, and environmental resilience,” said Sharon Danks, CEO of Green Schoolyards America. “We commend Oakland Unified School District on their ground-breaking efforts to create a greener future for all children in the City, and we are committed to collaborating with the District to help make their vision a reality.”

Simultaneous to working on the policy, The Trust for Public Land is leading the implementation of living schoolyard pilot projects on five campuses: Melrose Leadership Academy, Markham Elementary School, the co-located International Community School and Think College Now, Street Academy, and Ralph J. Bunche High School. The Rose Foundation is creating a living schoolyard at the Havenscourt Campus.

“The Trust for Public Land works to ensure that everyone lives within a 10 minute walk of a park, and Oakland schoolyards have the potential to move the needle on addressing this vision. Our organization is committed to working with the District and the Oakland community to design and build living schoolyards, as well as assisting the District to develop policies and strategies and secure funding to ensure that projects are implemented and maintained,” said Alejandra Chiesa, Bay Area Program Director for The Trust for Public Land.

OUSD’s Deputy Chief of Facilities, Tim White is pleased to see the genesis of this effort, “The collaboration with people from the community doing these projects and pushing forward the work are the best ways to offer this kind of benefit, because the community is so deeply invested in it. We look forward to seeing these school yards come to life.”

These schoolyard transformations have been successful in attracting funding from State and philanthropic grants. The Trust for Public Land has recently secured close to $2.3 million dollars in state grants and additional funding in private philanthropy from the Hellman Foundation and Kaiser Permanente Northern California.

Students working in the garden at Hoover Elementary School. Photo by Paige Green, © Green Schoolyards America

Students working in the garden at Hoover Elementary School. Photo by Paige Green, © Green Schoolyards America

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About The Trust for Public Land

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.

About Green Schoolyards America

Green Schoolyards America’s mission is to transform asphalt-covered school grounds into park-like green spaces that improve children’s well-being, learning, and play while contributing to the ecological health and resilience of our cities. We seek to change the norm for school ground design, use, and management so that all children will have access to the natural world in the places they already visit on a daily basis. For more information, please visit www.greenschoolyards.org.

About Oakland Unified School District

In California’s most diverse city, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is dedicated to creating a learning environment where “Every Student Thrives!” More than half of our students speak a non-English language at home. And each of our 86 schools is staffed with talented individuals uniting around a common set of values: Students First, Equity, Excellence, Integrity, Cultural Responsiveness and Joy. We are committed to preparing all students for college, career and community success. 

To learn more about OUSD’s Full Service Community District focused on academic achievement while serving the whole child in safe schools, please visit OUSD.org and follow us @OUSDnews.

Contact: John Sasaki, Communications Director, Oakland Unified School District. 510-214-2080. john.sasaki@ousd.org

Inspiring Visit to Japan: Exploring the World through Our School Grounds

Conference participants at the International School Grounds Alliance’s conference in Yokohama, Japan.

Conference participants at the International School Grounds Alliance’s conference in Yokohama, Japan.

One of Green Schoolyards America’s closest partners is the International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA), a global network of organizations and individuals working to enrich children’s learning and play by improving the way school grounds are designed and used.

Every year or two the ISGA holds an international conference in a different part of the world. In November 2018, the ISGA’s 7th conference was held in Yokohama, Japan and was directed by Dr. Ko Senda, Associate Professor at Tsurumi Junior College (and in our opinion, one of the best designers of children’s environments in the world!). The conference was called Exploring the World through Our School Grounds. Green Schoolyards America’s CEO, Sharon Danks, is one of ISGA’s co-founders. She participated on the conference planning committee and was honored to share our work in Japan during the event’s international symposium.

Sharon Danks shared Green Schoolyards America’s work at the international symposium in Japan.

Sharon Danks shared Green Schoolyards America’s work at the international symposium in Japan.

During the conference, participants were treated to inspiring keynote talks, workshops, and tours and spent time with colleagues from Japan and many other countries. The schoolyards that participants toured were absolutely phenomenal, and included preschool environments where hundreds of children engage in hands-on learning and play by climbing trees, swinging on ropes, digging in sand boxes, and balancing on creatively-designed play elements.

Preschool children play in the lush and exciting green schoolyard at Miyamae Kindergarten in Japan.

Preschool children play in the lush and exciting green schoolyard at Miyamae Kindergarten in Japan.

Preschool children at Miyamae Kindergarten explore an area of their school grounds that includes a variety of challenging tree houses and forts built in and among a small forest grove on a hillside.

Preschool children at Miyamae Kindergarten explore an area of their school grounds that includes a variety of challenging tree houses and forts built in and among a small forest grove on a hillside.

At many schools, the buildings—as well as the grounds—were designed in a very child-centered manner that included rope climbing nets and other interactive elements that were built into the structure of the school buildings, giving children a very three dimensional experience of their classrooms and gathering spaces inside the schools.

Conference participants explored the multi-purpose room at Yotsukaido Satsuki Kindergarten in Japan, designed by Environment Design Institute. This beautiful gathering space includes playful elevated catwalks around the perimeter, a rope net tunnel across the ceiling, and a whole wall that opens up on days with nice weather to create an indoor-outdoor performance space.

Conference participants explored the multi-purpose room at Yotsukaido Satsuki Kindergarten in Japan, designed by Environment Design Institute. This beautiful gathering space includes playful elevated catwalks around the perimeter, a rope net tunnel across the ceiling, and a whole wall that opens up on days with nice weather to create an indoor-outdoor performance space.

A view of the autumn landscape at Akitsu Elementary in Japan. The green schoolyard at this school includes a large rice paddy, a wetland/pond ecosystem, shade trees, fruit trees, grassy play spaces, rolling hills, group seating, and parent-built play elements.

A view of the autumn landscape at Akitsu Elementary in Japan. The green schoolyard at this school includes a large rice paddy, a wetland/pond ecosystem, shade trees, fruit trees, grassy play spaces, rolling hills, group seating, and parent-built play elements.

A custom-designed play environment at Kohoku Kindergarten in Japan nestled in the trees invites children to explore, climb, slide, and create their own games in and around this unique play structure.

A custom-designed play environment at Kohoku Kindergarten in Japan nestled in the trees invites children to explore, climb, slide, and create their own games in and around this unique play structure.

At the conference, Susan Humphries (center), who was the principal of The Coombes School in England for more than three decades, received a lifetime achievement award for her work as a pioneer in the global green schoolyard field. She is shown here with six members of ISGA’s Executive Committee from the USA, UK, Sweden, Canada, and Japan.

At the conference, Susan Humphries (center), who was the principal of The Coombes School in England for more than three decades, received a lifetime achievement award for her work as a pioneer in the global green schoolyard field. She is shown here with six members of ISGA’s Executive Committee from the USA, UK, Sweden, Canada, and Japan.

Green Schoolyards America greatly values our relationships with like-minded colleagues and organizations around the world. Their thoughtful, elegant, and impactful work continually enriches our overall approach and broadens our perspective. We are honored to partner with the ISGA to build an international movement in this field, and to add our voice to a wider call to connect children with nature every day at school.

The ISGA’s next conference will be held in Scotland in September 2020. We hope you will join us and add your voice to the growing global chorus of green schoolyard advocates! Please visit the ISGA’s website for more information.

Living Schoolyards Featured at the Green Schools Summit

Sharon Danks (Green Schoolyards America) gave a keynote presentation at the Green California Schools and Community Colleges Summit this year. Photo by David McNew, courtesy of Green Technology.

Sharon Danks (Green Schoolyards America) gave a keynote presentation at the Green California Schools and Community Colleges Summit this year. Photo by David McNew, courtesy of Green Technology.

For more than a decade, the Green California Schools and Community Colleges Summit has been an annual gathering place for the green building community to share ideas and best practices, launch new programs and products, and work to shape the future of the green building field in California.

This year, Green Schoolyards America’s CEO, Sharon Danks, was honored to give the keynote address on the opening day of the conference. This was particularly exciting because the green building industry has long focused on constructing school buildings, and has only recently begun to seriously consider how school grounds can impact the local environment and influence children’s health and experiences at school.

Danks’s presentation shared our organization’s vision for “living schoolyards” across the state of California that are designed to benefit children, their communities, and the urban environment at the same time. Green Schoolyards America envisions a future in which:

  • All children have daily access to nature right outside their classroom door, enabling dynamic hands-on learning across the curriculum, child-directed play, robust health, and a positive social environment.

  • School grounds are vibrant, welcoming centers for their communities, and the public lands managed by schools also function as public parks after hours.

  • School grounds act as green infrastructure for their cities, helping to foster healthy urban watersheds, rich wildlife habitats, improved climate, and better air quality.

Sharon also presented the contrasting, stark reality that many school grounds in California face: A majority of our schools are almost completely paved and lack trees and other vegetation. More than 58% of California’s public schools have less than 5% tree canopy coverage to protect children from the sun, and cool our urban environment.

The need for change is clear—as shown in the image below—and the scale of making a transition from “asphalt to ecosystems” on our school grounds is enormous. California has more than 10,000 schools on 130,000 acres of land. We need widespread collaboration to move the needle on this problem.

Sharon Danks included the slide above in her presentation at the Green Schools Summit. ©Green Schoolyards America, 2018.

Sharon Danks included the slide above in her presentation at the Green Schools Summit. ©Green Schoolyards America, 2018.

Sharon encouraged the audience to do what they can, in their own roles, to help fix this problem and shift the norm for schools across our state so that all children will have access to nature on their own school grounds, every day. She also presented specific ideas to help the architects, public agency staff, and school district leaders in the audience get started, and encouraged interdisciplinary collaboration to move the field forward.

For more information about Green Schoolyards America’s approach and philosophy, click here for an interview with Sharon Danks that the Summit host conducted in preparation for this event.

Exploring Connections Between School Grounds and Health

Workshop organizer, Claire Latané, opened the program.

Workshop organizer, Claire Latané, opened the program.

On Thursday, October 11, 2018, Green Schoolyards America’s CEO, Sharon Danks, was honored to participate in an innovative workshop called Designing Schools for Mental Health. The workshop was led by our colleague Claire Latané, and was hosted by the Cal Poly Pomona Department of Landscape Architecture.

The goal of the event was to convene members of the mental health, education, design, and environmental communities in the Los Angeles region to share their work and spark a discussion about how all of these fields can collaborate to create school environments that better support students’ mental and physical health and well-being.

The event organizers created this workshop because “Los Angeles area students experience high levels of instability and stress related to urban environmental conditions, family trauma, and neighborhood disinvestment. As an indication of the degree, fifty percent of LAUSD students suffer moderate to severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Design principles to reduce stress and to support students suffering attention deficit, sensory integration, and autism spectrum disorders are remarkably similar -- [and call for schools to] provide a well-organized, comfortable, calm environment, plenty of access to nature, and small quiet places to escape chaos.”

Keynote speaker, Dr. William Sullivan from the University of Illinois, spoke about his research that connects landscape design to children’s well-being. He and his colleagues have found that views of trees and green landscapes from the classroom window reduce students’ stress levels and restores their ability to pay attention, helping students to measurably improve their academic performance.

Sharon Danks was also a keynote speaker, and gave a presentation that highlighted many different ways that green schoolyards can be used to improve or promote children’s health. This included examples from around the world about designing children’s environments: to encourage students to run and explore; to learn new skills; to develop balance and strength; and eat a balanced and healthy diet. She also presented school ground examples that help support students’ social emotional development, empathy, and mental health; and touched on environmental health topics that impact students’ health and well-being. (e.g. playground surface temperatures, protection from the sun, and organic grounds management)

Sharon Danks, Green Schoolyards America, shares our organization’s vision and perspective.

Sharon Danks, Green Schoolyards America, shares our organization’s vision and perspective.

Dr. Marcella Raney (Occidental College) discussed her recent research that illustrates connections between schoolyard design, children’s behavior patterns, and their physical activity levels. Eileen Alduenda (Council for Watershed Health) spoke about her organization’s research into the land use patterns and tree canopy coverage of school grounds in the Los Angeles Unified School District—and their shocking findings that ~20% of LAUSD’s school grounds are completely paved and don’t have a single tree. Pia Escudero and Albert Grazioli, speakers from LAUSD, also detailed the school district’s work to provide an expanded network of wellness centers and mental health services to the District’s students. Maryjane Puffer (LA Trust for Children’s Health) spoke about her organization’s work to improve children’s health.

The event concluded with lively group discussion sessions designed to encourage ongoing collaboration to improve children’s mental and physical health at schools and districts in the region.

Eileen Alduenda, Council for Watershed Health, explains that a shocking 82% of LAUSD’s school grounds are paved.

Eileen Alduenda, Council for Watershed Health, explains that a shocking 82% of LAUSD’s school grounds are paved.



Press Release: Work Begins to Create "Living Schoolyards" at Oakland Schools Through a Collaborative Partnership

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Melrose Leadership Academy Is First of Five Schools to See Addition

Oakland, CA -- With less than two weeks to go before the 2018-19 school year begins, schools across Oakland are getting ready. At Melrose Leadership Academy (MLA), work is now underway to make the campus more green and, in the process, help children learn.

Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), The Trust for Public Land, and Green Schoolyards America announced their partnership at MLA, the first of five schools to serve as demonstration sites where asphalt covered schoolyards will be transformed into green or “living” schoolyards. The partners will also collaborate on a district policy, funding strategy and joint use agreements to ensure more OUSD’s schoolyards become healthier and more climate resilient.

At Melrose Leadership Academy, work is now underway to make the campus greener and help children learn outside. The demolition work is being graciously donated by DPR Construction through a Melrose parent. Many thanks to DPR! Photo credit: the trust for public land

At Melrose Leadership Academy, work is now underway to make the campus greener and help children learn outside. The demolition work is being graciously donated by DPR Construction through a Melrose parent. Many thanks to DPR! Photo credit: the trust for public land

“Working with The Trust for Public Land, Green Schoolyards America and the community provides Oakland Unified School District with added resources and technical expertise that we need to improve the learning environment for our students,” said Kyla Johnson-Trammell, OUSD Superintendent.

“This effort will also create healthier conditions at our schools, and get our students to think more globally and be more environmentally conscious.” 
— Kyla Johnson-Trammell, OUSD Superintendent

The partnership focuses on increasing equity across the OUSD by prioritizing schools that serve low-income neighborhoods. The five demonstration schoolyards (Emiliano Zapata Street Academy, Markham Elementary School, Melrose Leadership Academy, Ralph J. Bunche High School, and two elementary schools that share a campus, International Community School and Think College Now) will receive community engagement, participatory design, asphalt removal and planting. The demonstration schools will also benefit from professional development from the Green Schoolyards America’s Principals’ Institute. Nearly 1,700 students attend these five schools and will directly benefit from the transformation, and a total of 30,000 people live within a 10-minute walk of these sites.

Alejandra Chiesa, Bay Area Program Director at The Trust for Public Land, said, “We are excited to begin transforming asphalt-covered schoolyards into park-like outdoor learning environments with trees, gardens and natural materials.  As a parent, I know schools are where children spend most of their time and everyone deserves a great park within a 10-min walk from home. By investing in school ground greening, students and the surrounding community gain daily exposure to nature and all its associated benefits.”

“Our temperature measurements indicate that on a sunny 65-70°F day in Oakland, unshaded asphalt surface temperatures can climb over 115°F and rubber matting is often more than 140°F. These conditions are not conducive to comfort or physical activity and can negatively impact children’s well-being,” said Sharon Danks, Executive Director of Green Schoolyards America. “By transforming these asphalt covered schoolyards into park-like environments, we can plant trees to shade and cool hot asphalt and reduce energy costs in adjacent buildings, while also improving the watershed by absorbing rain water. “Living schoolyards” also provide fantastic, engaging, place-based, hands-on learning resources right outside the classroom door, which makes it easier for teachers to immerse children in the natural world every day.” 

This new partnership with Oakland Unified School District, Green Schoolyards America and The Trust for Public Land builds on an existing strong garden program in the District. In this photo, students at Hoover Elementary School Learn to about climate by measuring the temperature of their grounds, under the guidance of Sharon Danks and garden teacher, Wanda Stewart. Photo credit; Paige Green.

This new partnership with Oakland Unified School District, Green Schoolyards America and The Trust for Public Land builds on an existing strong garden program in the District. In this photo, students at Hoover Elementary School Learn to about climate by measuring the temperature of their grounds, under the guidance of Sharon Danks and garden teacher, Wanda Stewart. Photo credit; Paige Green.

“As our federal government steps back from the historic Paris Climate Accord, Oakland Unified School District is stepping up to address the impacts of climate change where we can, from the classroom to our schoolyards,” said OUSD Board of Education Director, Jody London “The Living Schoolyards Initiative brings together students, teachers, staff, families and the community in designing the environment they’d like to see.”

Tim White is Deputy Chief of Facilities at Oakland Unified School District and said, “OUSD remains committed to providing students with great learning facilities and outdoor spaces. Partnerships like this are essential to overcome some of the funding challenges we face. The need is great and OUSD cannot do it alone. We are extremely grateful for the continued engagement and support of so many non-profits partners and community members that have been working alongside OUSD to improve our schools.”

"Children who experience nature become adults who protect it.”
—Sam Schuchat, Executive Officer of the California State Coastal Conservancy
student drawings from a schoolyard design workshop  earlier this year at Markham elementary school in oakland, led by Trust for Public Land and Green Schoolyards America.

student drawings from a schoolyard design workshop  earlier this year at Markham elementary school in oakland, led by Trust for Public Land and Green Schoolyards America.

Generous funders have provided key contributions toward this effort. The California State Coastal Conservancy Proposition 1 competitive Grant Program has provided a $566,000 grant to The Trust for Public Land. Other major contributors include Kaiser Permanente Northern California and the Hellman Foundation. 

“Living schoolyards are true multi-benefit projects,” said Sam Schuchat, Executive Officer of the California State Coastal Conservancy and Oakland resident. “Not only do they provide the important ecological services in our heavily urbanized watersheds, they are connecting the future generation of stewards with the natural world.  Children who experience nature become adults who protect it.” 

“This pilot of transforming asphalt-covered campuses with gardens and nature-filled outdoor classrooms will create beautiful park-like spaces that will inspire students and stimulate their creativity, as well as result in a healthier learning environment. The Hellman Foundation is delighted to support this partnership which will benefit thousands of students in Oakland and serve as learning opportunity for expansion across the district,” said Susan Hirsch, Executive Director of the Hellman Foundation.

"Research has long confirmed the mental and physical benefits of time well spent in safe, green spaces,” said Abhay Dandekar, MD, a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland.  “We must create these healthy environments for developing minds and bodies as they learn and grow.  Revitalizing asphalt-covered schoolyards into outdoor learning and play spaces with trees and gardens will surely impact children and families now and for generations to come.”

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About The Trust for Public Land

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.

About Green Schoolyards America

Green Schoolyards America is a national organization that expands and strengthens the green schoolyard movement and empowers Americans to become stewards of their school and neighborhood environments. Our programs support the living school ground movement, build relationships that help it success, and work to embed this perspective in our existing institutions and policy and regulatory frameworks. www.greenschoolyards.org

About the Oakland Unified School District

In California’s most diverse city, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is dedicated to creating a learning environment where “Every Student Thrives!” More than half of our students speak a non-English language at home. And each of our 86 schools is staffed with talented individuals uniting around a common set of values: Students First, Equity, Excellence, Integrity, Cultural Responsiveness and Joy. We are committed to preparing all students for college, career and community success. 

To learn more about OUSD’s Full Service Community District focused on academic achievement while serving the whole child in safe schools, please visit OUSD.org and follow us @OUSDnews.

Press Release Contact: John Sasaki, Communications Director, 510-214-2080, john.sasaki@ousd.org

Connecting Children with Nature in Cities and Schools: An International Perspective

Connecting Children with Nature in Cities and Schools: An International Perspective

Recently, at an event co-hosted by The Presidio Trust and Green Schoolyards America, the featured keynote speaker, Laís Fleury, Director of the Alana Institute in Rio de Janeiro and the Coordinator of the Children and Nature program in Brazil, shared how one organization is working to connect children with nature in Brazil.  The event was held in celebration of International School Grounds Month, with the collaboration of the International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA) and Evergreen.

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Why 21st Century Children Need Nature

Why 21st Century Children Need Nature

Green Schoolyards America and The Presidio Trust invite you to join us for an inspiring afternoon presentation and discussion with our visiting keynote speaker, Prof. David Sobel, who will talk about the importance of nature play for 21st century children.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Networking Reception, 4:00 - 4:30 pm  |  Presentation, 4:30 - 6:00 pm
The Presidio  |  Observation Post  |  211 Lincoln Blvd  |  San Francisco, CA 

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Join us in Sacramento on May 18th!

The State Water Resources Control Board is hosting the STORMS Seminar Series to share the latest reports, studies, and policies in the world of stormwater to an audience of both governmental and public interests, as a way to support their mission of promoting stormwater as a valuable resource.

The next STORMS Seminar Series event, Living Schoolyards for Stormwater Management, will be hosted at the CalEPA Building (1001 I Street) on Wednesday, May 18th, 10 am to noon. 

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Green Schoolyards America featured in the Mountain View Voice!

Green Schoolyards America featured in the Mountain View Voice!

Sharon Danks, Green Schoolyards America’s CEO, was honored to speak with the Mountain View Whisman School District’s school board at their meeting this month. Her presentation described the benefits of greening school grounds for both children and the local environment, and generated a lively dialogue. The Mountain View Voice published an article reporting on the event:

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A Win for Sustainable Schools as part of California Climate Investment Plan

A Win for Sustainable Schools as part of California Climate Investment Plan

California’s climate action law (AB32) includes an innovative market-based mechanism to lower greenhouse gas emissions called “cap and trade.” The California Air Resources Board, in collaboration with a number of state agencies, is organizing investment strategies for the next three years. In the first draft investment plan, schools were not included as investment priorities and were not eligible for most of the funding programs.

Today, December 17th, Katrina Ortiz from Green Schoolyards America and Deborah Moore from Green Schools Initiative spoke at the California Air Resources Board’s public hearing about their 2016-19 second draft investment plan. 

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Upcoming Midwest Activity Guide

Upcoming Midwest Activity Guide

We’re happy to report that we now have 26 Midwest organizations on board to contribute activities to the 2016 Living Schoolyard Activity Guide - Midwest Edition!

We’re glad that so many amazing organizations from across Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Iowa have joined us so far. We’re looking forward to including more voices in the coming weeks!

As you may have heard, we’re in the midst of raising funds to make sure we are able to complete this guide—and we need your help! 

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