We had the pleasure of working with our colleagues to shine a spotlight on school grounds in Oakland during the Children & Nature Network’s 2019 International Children & Nature conference in May.
We participated in two conference sessions that explored Green Schoolyards America’s ongoing collaboration with the Oakland Unified School District and The Trust for Public Land to develop and help implement a vision for greening school grounds across Oakland.
On May 15, 2019, we helped the Children & Nature Network to lead a special pre-conference session focused on using green schoolyards as a mechanism to bring nature into children’s lives on a daily basis. Participants in this session came into town from across the United States and around the world, and are engaged in schoolyard greening efforts in their own local regions. We had a lively and productive group discussion and exchange of ideas in the morning.
Just before lunch, Green Schoolyards America, Trust for Public Land, and Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) gave a collaborative slide presentation about our work together, and our vision to green school grounds across the City.
After lunch, the whole group boarded buses and we had the opportunity to bring everyone to see three Oakland schools where greening is planned or underway.
On our visit to Markham Elementary, The Trust for Public Land showed the visiting group a schoolyard master plan that will help transform a very paved school site (above) into a more park-like green space with trees, gardens, and a variety of outdoor learning and recreational spaces. This school is one of the five pilot projects that our partnership is producing. The Trust for Public Land is leading the design process.
On our visit to Hoover Elementary, garden teacher Wanda Stewart shared the work she has been doing with her students, school volunteers, and the wider community to develop a spectacular garden and outdoor learning space on the school grounds. The program already in action at this school is a model for others in our region, and its benefits to students are already very clear. Several students joined the tour and told the visitors about what they appreciated about spending time in green space at their school. The students were also expert tour guides who led the adults through the garden and helped them to see it through their eyes.
On May 16, the three partner organizations also spoke at a separate conference session about greening school grounds in Oakland. Sharon Danks (Green Schoolyards America), Alejandra Chiesa (Trust for Public Land), and OUSD School Board Vice President Jody London co-presented (shown below), and engaged the audience in a conversation about the tremendous need for this work, the challenges involved in trying to dramatically change school grounds, and the process and strategies we are using to bring green schoolyards to scale in Oakland.
Later in the day on May 16, Sharon Danks (Green Schoolyards America) also collaborated with colleagues John Fisher (Life Lab) and Nathan Larson (Wisconsin School Garden Network) to lead a separate session at the conference focused on the topic of developing and sustaining networks to further the school garden and green schoolyard movements. Our workshop shared examples from our own work, and promoted a lively dialogue about network-building among session participants.
Green Schoolyards America greatly enjoys sharing our work at conferences and meeting our colleagues. It is wonderful to hear about inspiring efforts happening all around us, near and far. We will close this post with a snapshot (below) of our green schoolyard colleagues who were in town from across the United States as well as England and Chile!