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5 ways to invest in school grounds that improves outdoor play and learning

Evergreen 5 ways to invest in school grounds that improves outdoor play and learning kids on rocks

Published on July 14, 2020

Investing in school grounds as green, dynamic and immersive learning environments brings about a multitude of benefits, not only for the children who use them on a daily basis, but also for the whole school community. 

Evergreen's unique approach to the design of school grounds features a comprehensive participatory planning with the school community, placing a particular emphasis on the main users – the children. Their voices are at the centre of this practice.

This inclusive design process opens up possibilities for greater connections to the outdoors, and to each other. When you take learning outdoors, opportunities abound for children to develop empathy, resilience, confidence, creativity and to grow socially, cognitively, and physically, as they explore their relationship to each other and to the natural world through greener school grounds.

Drawing from some of our recent projects, here are 5 ways to make an impact in your school ground:

Evergreen kids playing in sandbox at schoolyard Evergreen 5 ways to invest in school grounds that improves outdoor play and learning

1. Connect to all the senses. Adding elements that appeal to touch, smell, taste and sight create deeply engaging learning opportunities. Here is an immersive playground in Winnipeg, MB, where children are surrounded by a number of natural elements to engage their senses. 

School yard with logs as steps to climb Evergreen 5 ways to invest in school grounds that improves outdoor play and learning

2. Encourage hands-on and experiential. Elements such as the log steppers, playhouse and mud kitchen at Centennial Public School in London, ON provide opportunities for immersive engagement.

Child-like Art mural at school yard with mulch pathway Evergreen 5 ways to invest in school grounds that improves outdoor play and learning

3. Infuse art. Storytelling, music, arts and crafts inspired by nature foster imagination and creativity. A learning garden at Queen Elizabeth School Orchard in Vancouver, BC boasts a beautiful and immersive piece of artwork. [photo credit: Dolores Altin]

Before and after of school yard - before is empty basketball court with greenspace, after is saplings planted in greenspace Evergreen 5 ways to invest in school grounds that improves outdoor play and learning

4. Create inclusive spaces. School grounds that are designed to be welcoming can help to provide a sense of belonging and appeal to a diversity of ages and stages. A before & after of the schoolyard at Sir John A. Macdonald in Markham, ON demonstrate newly planted green canopies that will provide shade, seating and cooling, increasing the accessibility of the space.

Since 2014, Evergreen has been working with the York Region District School Board, the York Catholic District School Board and the Regional Municipality of York to transform school grounds into green learning spaces.

container gardens in school yard planted in wooden boxes Evergreen 5 ways to invest in school grounds that improves outdoor play and learning

5. Rooted in Place. The programming and design are reflective of the history, culture and local community. Here we see this school in Montréal, QC with raised garden beds that allow for children and other community members alike to connect with food and the land.

Greening school grounds and creating places for immersive play are just some of the many ways to invest in children’s spaces and outdoor learning. There are number of other ways Evergreen supports schools, including:

  • Virtual Learning opportunities 
  • Videos & Webinars  
  • How-to-Guides for Outdoor Learning 
  • Curriculum Resources 

We collaborate with school boards to provide: