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