Announcing a Hands-on Conference with Inspiring School Ground Innovator, Susan Humphries: Sept. 27-28, 2019

An outdoor lesson in progress at The Coombes School, within a child-planted forest.  Photo: © Sharon Danks

An outdoor lesson in progress at The Coombes School, within a child-planted forest.
Photo: © Sharon Danks

Green Schoolyards America is honored to announce that we will have a very special visitor this fall, in town from England! Our colleague, Susan Humphries, MBE, MA, will join us in the San Francisco Bay Area at the end of September to share her expertise and deep understanding of how to use school grounds to foster children’s learning, play, and happiness.

Ms. Humphries will collaborate with Green Schoolyards America to lead a two-day, professional development conference that shares what she has learned over her 40+ year career as one of the green schoolyard field’s international founders. She brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in teaching methods that are based on outdoor experiences and an understanding of the natural world.

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Save the dates!

September 27 28, 2019

DAY 1: Hands-on Teaching and
Learning in a Green Schoolyard

DAY 2: Making the Most of
Asphalt-Covered School Grounds

Timing: 9:00 am - 3:30 pm, both days
Location:
Hosted by Golestan School, El Cerrito, CA

Our conference program is designed for preschool and elementary school teachers, and will also be well suited to after school and childcare staff, educators in non-formal settings, garden teachers, designers of children’s environments, and members of the public interested in children’s wellbeing, learning, and play.

The program will include a keynote presentation each day with vibrant examples drawn from Ms. Humphries’s inspiring work at The Coombes School in Berkshire, England, where she was the Founding Headteacher (principal) and led the school for almost four decades. The program will also include hands-on workshops designed to bring her teaching philosophy and methodology to life, and provide resources and ideas that participants will be able to use at their own schools after the conference.

A music lesson in progress on the asphalt playground at The Coombes School.  Photo: © Sharon Danks

A music lesson in progress on the asphalt playground at The Coombes School.
Photo: © Sharon Danks

More information about the speaker:

Susan Humphries, MBE, MA, is the Founding Headteacher of The Coombes School in Berkshire, England. She led the school from 1971 to 2002, and remained involved with their program and landscape development for an additional decade after her retirement. In 2011, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Faculty of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, Sweden to acknowledge the foundations she has laid in building individual and group responsibility for healthy ecosystems and use of natural resources. In 2012, Humphries collaborated with her colleague Susan Rowe to write a book called The Coombes Approach: Learning through an Experimental and Outdoor Curriculum, to share teaching methods used at the school. In 2018, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International School Grounds Alliance to recognize the formative impact her ideas have had on the green schoolyard movement across the globe.

Enrollment:

This conference is open to the public. Click here for more detailed information about the event and how to enroll. We hope you will join us for this special event!

Conference organizers:

This conference is a project of Green Schoolyards America, in collaboration with Susan Humphries. It will be hosted by our partners at Golestan Education, on their beautiful school grounds in El Cerrito, CA.

Children, Nature, and School Grounds in Oakland, California

Conference participants visited the beautiful garden at Hoover Elementary School in Oakland, CA.

Conference participants visited the beautiful garden at Hoover Elementary School in Oakland, CA.

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.

Sharon Danks (Green Schoolyards America) talks about our collaborative work in Oakland.

Sharon Danks (Green Schoolyards America) talks about our collaborative work in Oakland.

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.

Participants in the schoolyard tour visit Markham Elementary in Oakland, CA to learn about changes planned for the grounds.

Participants in the schoolyard tour visit Markham Elementary in Oakland, CA to learn about changes planned for the grounds.

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.

Students at Hoover Elementary joined the discussion about their school garden, and helped the visiting adults learn about the program.

Students at Hoover Elementary joined the discussion about their school garden, and helped the visiting adults learn about the program.

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.

The Trust for Public Land’s Alejandra Chiesa speaks to conference attendees.

The Trust for Public Land’s Alejandra Chiesa speaks to conference attendees.

OUSD School Board Vice President Jody London speaks at the conference.

OUSD School Board Vice President Jody London speaks at the conference.

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!

A lively gathering of green schoolyard colleagues from near and far—out for ice cream to continue our conversations after the conference!

A lively gathering of green schoolyard colleagues from near and far—out for ice cream to continue our conversations after the conference!