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Boston Schoolyard Initiative Wins Acclaim

Boston Herald – August 13, 2008
By Katy Jordan

The Boston Schoolyard Initiative - acknowledged yesterday as a national model by the National League of Cities - is turning learning inside out in an effort to combat child obesity.

“I call it the ‘No Child Left Inside Act,’ ” program director Juliet Stone said of the initiative that has refurbished 71 of Boston’s public schoolyards.

“Kids in the city are cut off from nature. Active, outdoor living should be valued as much as indoor learning and nutrition,” Stone added.

The schoolyards, in which kids grow plants and vegetables, serve as outdoor classrooms for science and writing, as well as an outdoor natural oasis.

The initiative is a long-running partnership between the city, Boston public schools and the Boston Schoolyard Funders Collaborative.

The refurbished schoolyards cost about $75,000 each to build and are funded two-thirds by the city and one-third by private funds.

“It’s important for kids to have an intimate relationship with the outside world,” Stone said. “It all gives them a better sense of belonging and environmental responsibility.”‘

By 2010, the city expects to refurbish another 14 schoolyards, according to Kim Comart, Interim Manager at Boston Schoolyards Funders Collaborative.

“It’s really about respecting children,” Comart said. “A schoolyard of asphalt that’s filled with broken glass and trash sends a message to kids that we don’t care.”

“All of our schools now benefit from this effort; as a result, we can now provide our students with endless opportunities for creative learning, physical activity and fun,” Mayor Thomas M. Menino said yesterday at the Leadership for Healthy Communities program at Boston’s Park Plaza Hotel.

And the kids aren’t the only ones who benefit.

“It’s a pleasure to be out here, experiencing planting and growing,” said Christie Whittemore, a third-grade teacher at the Trotter School in Dorchester, emphasizing the effectiveness of outdoor science lessons.

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