pour grandir : redécouvrir les cours d’écoles naturelles
ne fait aucun doute que les enfants aiment l’extérieur et adorent établir
une relation intime et personnelle avec le grand air. Lorsque cette prédisposition est adéquatement encouragée, cet
intérêt précoce peut se développer et devenir l’éthique
environnementale de toute une vie avec son cortège de bienfaits pour le développement
personnel de ces enfants.
au contraire, lorsque ces enfants ne peuvent pas explorer de zones
naturelles, leur curiosité se détériore rapidement et souvent même
irréversiblement. Garantir aux jeunes l’opportunité de venir en contact
quotidiennement avec la nature est donc un facteur essentiel dans la
formation adéquate de générations successives de citoyens ayant une
conscience écologique. Compte tenu que les jeunes passent une proportion importante de
leurs années formatives dans des cours d’écoles, quel bon endroit pour
y débuter cette essentielle formation environnementale.
What are some examples
of features that could be incorporated?
Habitat restoration and naturalization projects
Butterfly meadows, ponds, insect gardens, and shrub hedges that provide
food and shelter for small mammals and birds
Nurseries for native plants
Artistic creations such as sculpture gardens, giant chess boards, wall
murals, and pavement paintings
Vegetable, berry, herb, perennial flower, and rock gardens
Roosting boxes, nesting boxes, and feeders for bats and birds
Informal spaces for quiet pursuits using rocks and logs for seating and
trees for shade
Checkerboard gardens with alternating squares of patio stones and soil
Amphitheatres of simple naturalized berms can provide outdoor classrooms
for music, dance, and theatre
more diverse the approach is, the greater the potential that exists to
integrate the schoolyard with all areas of the curriculum. Only your
imagination limits the possibilities!
Room to Grow:
Rediscovering the Natural Schoolyard
Falls Brook Centre
there is one thing that I have learned in my world travels, it is that
kids and dirt are a universally compatible combination.
(photo: Falls Brook Centre)
you look to the majestic plains of East Africa, to small indigenous communities in Mexico or rural
farms in New Brunswick, the same truth always holds: kids love getting up close and personal with the great outdoors.
When properly encouraged, this healthy early interest can grow into a
lifelong environmental ethic and can also lead to a host of other
personal development benefits. However, if there are no accessible
wild spaces for children to explore, this natural curiosity is
quickly- and often irreversibly- extinguished. A critical factor,
therefore, in successfully raising future generations of ecologically
conscious citizens is to ensure that youth have adequate opportunities
to interact with nature on a daily basis. What
better place to start with this important task than in the schoolyard?
exactly is schoolyard naturalization?
A schoolyard naturalization project can be as simple
or as complex as you choose to make it- anything from growing climbing
plants along dull chain link fences to establishing a native tree
nursery. Essentially, the main focus
of all schoolyard naturalization projects is to convert barren
expanses of asphalt into stimulating natural spaces for learning and
playing. Schoolyard “greening” is an ideal way to promote
interdisciplinary, hands-on learning about the environment through
projects that simultaneously benefit schools, communities, and local
(photo: Falls Brook Centre)
While educators have long recognized the value of
modifying the design of indoor classrooms to better address various
cognitive, physical, and social needs of learners, the layout of
schoolyards is rarely questioned. This oversight occurs despite the
fact that, using a very rough calculation of approximately 1.5 hours
per day, students spend as many as 1 800 hours (or 257 school days) in
their school grounds by the time they reach the end of grade 6! There
is enormous potential to transform these heavily used outdoor spaces
into exciting learning, playing, and socializing environments. Over
the past decade, this challenge has been taken up by thousands of
North American schools in the form of schoolyard naturalization
projects. When the numerous benefits and the overwhelmingly positive
results of such projects are considered, it is not difficult to
understand why schoolyard naturalization is a trend that is increasing
is wrong with leaving our schoolyard the way it is?
Most school grounds have been designed with a focus on
ease of maintenance and ease of student supervision, as well as to
facilitate team sports. While these are valuable objectives, they are
inadequate criteria when considered in isolation. The pursuit of these
criteria generally results in uninspiring open spaces lacking in shade
or shelter. Not only are these spaces lacking in terms of visual
stimulation and creative possibilities, but they also can be
especially problematic for introverted kids since they offer no
respite from big groups, schoolyard bullies, and noise. An increasing
body of evidence suggests that traditional schoolyard designs- or lack
thereof- worsen discipline problems, promote aggressive behaviour, and
leave a sizeable portion of the school environment miserable and
will this affect teachers’ workloads and is it expensive?
While a schoolyard naturalization project may not
reduce teachers’ workloads, it definitely can change the nature of
workloads. Such projects put the joy and excitement of learning back
into daily routines, often reminding teachers of why they entered the
profession in the first place. In addition, students, teachers,
parents, and community members can all be involved in schoolyard
greening- when spread between so many hands, the individual workload
is surprisingly light. Frequently,
many required materials and in-kind services can be obtained through
community donations and participation. A number of charitable
organizations also exist to promote schoolyard greening and distribute
grants to facilitate projects.
(photo: Falls Brook Centre)
are some of the benefits of schoolyard greening?
amazing wealth of benefits- personal development, learning, health and
safety, environmental, and economic- are generated through school
ground naturalization projects. What follows is merely a brief
overview of some of the most widely reported advantages of schoolyard
students’ outdoor learning environments reduces
anti-social behaviours. Accordingly, decreases in juvenile delinquency
have been reported during periods of school and community gardening.
Furthermore, teachers have observed that classroom social stresses
lessen when young people are given the opportunity to engage in
learning through improving their surroundings.
is enormous potential to integrate the schoolyard with a wide variety
of curriculum units. Hands-on activities in outdoor classrooms make
learning more interesting and can enhance any number of lesson plans
in a variety of subjects.
and Safety Benefits
the health and safety benefits of schoolyard naturalization projects
may not be immediately obvious, they are substantial and quantifiable.
“Obstacles”, such as trees in planters, have been shown to reduce
the number of “knock and bump” accidents in paved playgrounds by
up to 80%. Shade from newly planted trees can offer protection from
harmful UV radiation, while the trees themselves can help to filter
dust and pollutants from vehicle exhaust. In addition, a green
schoolyard can lead to less-quantifiable, long-term health benefits
associated with physical activity outside.
schoolground naturalization projects are generally assumed to be
expensive undertakings, they can actually produce a number of economic
benefits. Low maintenance gardens and ground cover can replace
energy-intensive, high-maintenance lawns that require annual
fertilizing, re-seeding, and aerating. Organic waste can be composted
and used to rehabilitate depleted soils, thus diverting it from the
landfill and avoiding waste and tipping fees. Furthermore, vandalism
to school property can be reduced by fostering a sense of ownership
through a schoolyard greening project.
but not least, the environmental benefits of school ground
naturalization projects cannot be overlooked. Naturalized school
grounds can contribute valuable green space to communities and
increase local biodiversity levels. Moreover, such projects are
designed to bring nature back into our daily lives and are crucial for
the long-term conservation, protection, and restoration of wild
places. Young people cannot be expected to gain a true appreciation
for the natural world from printed and electronic materials alone-
rather, they must be given chances to experience nature directly and
the schoolyard offers the perfect venue for the provision of these
(photo: Falls Brook Centre)
Sounds great! So,
what do I do next?
more information, contact the
education staff at Falls Brook Centre -
we would love to help!
Phone: (506) 375-4310