“Only a small fraction of public schoolyards in the U.S. have natural spaces for learning and play,” says Margaret Lamar, C&NN’s director of strategic initiatives. “By creating more access to nature on school grounds—the only public lands specifically allocated for use by children—we can have a lasting impact on children’s health and well-being, especially the most vulnerable children in economically challenged communities.”
Green Schoolyards for Healthy Communities came about after an initial planning phase, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, received significant cross-sector interest. To date, the initiative has facilitated focus groups of education and schoolyard experts in 16 cities, interviewed 75 multi-disciplinary professionals, convened experts from around the world at C&NN’s international conferences in 2015 and 2016, and synthesized best practices from successful green schoolyards in a new C&NN report titled, Building a National Movement for Green Schoolyards in Every Community.
Moving forward, the initiative will develop a research and policy agenda; create a cross-sector Green Schoolyards Network; curate research and resources for practitioners; and build a shared measurement framework for evaluating the success and prevalence of nature-rich schoolyards.
In addition, Green Schoolyards for Healthy Communities will select five to seven cities to receive technical assistance for building city/school partnerships for planning and implementing school-based green spaces to enhance the health and quality of life for children and families in urban communities.
“Green schoolyards can strengthen the social fabric of the wider community,” says Lamar. “During the school day, they provide opportunities for children to play and learn in nature. Outside of school hours, these green oases provide families, elders and neighbors places to spend quality time together and enjoy the many benefits that time in nature brings.”
C&NN’s new report, Building a National Movement for Green Schoolyards in Every Community, is available now. The report covers the proven impacts of green schoolyards on academic outcomes, physical and mental health, and social-emotional learning as well as examples of successful models and promising practices. The report also introduces a framework for advancing green schoolyards through the development of a national green schoolyards network; coordinated policy, partnership and funding strategies; and research and metrics to increase the evidence base.
“In too many neighborhoods, the standard play space is an asphalt playground surrounded by a chain link fence. Children are experiencing high rates of stress, depression, obesity, diabetes and other health conditions associated with sedentary lifestyles. And schools across the nation are struggling to close the achievement gap,” says Lamar.
“A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that the creation of nature-rich urban environments, including schoolyards with natural play spaces and gardens, can help improve physical and mental health, cognitive skills, creativity, and, according to new longitudinal studies, standardized test scores,” continues Lamar. “In addition, children in low-income communities appear to benefit proportionately more from access to green space that those in higher-income communities.”
For more information on Green Schoolyards for Healthy Communities and green schoolyards report, visit childrenandnature.org.
About the Children & Nature Network. The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) is leading a movement to connect all children, their families and communities to nature through innovative ideas, evidence-based resources and tools, broad-based collaboration and support of grassroots leadership. C&NN is the only organization focused solely on building a national and international movement that reconnects children with nature to optimize their healthy development— cognitively, emotionally, socially and physically. C&NN builds awareness, provides access to state-of-the art resources, supports the grassroots with tools and strategies, develops publications and educational materials, synthesizes the best available research, and encourages collaboration to infuse the connection of children to nature in policy, programs, and partnerships across the world. C&NN is a 501c3 non-profit organization. For more information, visit childrenandnature.org.
About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit wkkf.org.
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