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Kids Need Better School Grounds. Here’s How We Can Create Them

How can we create better outdoor spaces for our kids? Our Climate Ready Schools program asks just that.

Children drawing maps of school grounds

Published on January 13, 2022

The last few years have highlighted just how important school grounds are for kids. They provide a safe place to learn and play, and are often children’s main connection to the outdoors. 

But many Canadian school grounds are falling short. A recent study by OPHEA (Ontario Physical and Health Education Association) found that 73% of Ontario schools surveyed scored poorly on meeting the needs of their students, including 10% which had no fields, 13% which had no shade from trees, and 16% that had no courts for organized sports.  

It’s a problem that stretches across the country. How can we create better outdoor spaces for our kids? Evergreen has been working to address this issue in our over 25 years of greening Canadian school grounds. Now, our Climate Ready Schools pilot program is taking things a step further. Let’s take a closer look at how. 

School Grounds Designed with and for Kids 

Too many school grounds are designed without kids or the natural environment in mind. Stretches of concrete without any greenery can compound some of the worst effects of climate change — from flooding to urban heat — while leaving kids without a space to engage with the natural world.

At our Climate Ready School pilot at Irma Coulson Public School in Milton, Ontario, our team has been working with the Halton District School Board and collaborating with the school's students to learn which areas of the existing schoolground are important to them, and which they'd like to see improved.

Through our unique participatory design process, students had the chance to engage in child-friendly design activities, where they were encouraged to share their values, and the changes they wished to see in their new school ground. We also engaged with parents, teachers and administrators, and the broader community through site walks and workshops, to learn what they wanted from a redesigned school ground.

The result is a plan for a new school ground with natural features for kids to learn and play on — including new plants, pathways and play walls — while creating a green, welcoming space for the whole community to enjoy outside of school hours.

Then, our team designed a new school ground that included natural features for outdoor play — like pathways and playwalls — while being a welcoming space for the whole community to enjoy outside of school hours.

Climate Ready and Kid-Friendly 

With the final plan in place, construction on the school ground began late last year.  

The design and planning was done in collaboration with Berlin-based landscape architect Birgit Teichmann and Canadian landscape architects, using lessons learned from Berlin’s Sponge Schools project, and is designed to ensure that the school grounds can absorb 100% of rainfall on the school site.

Not only will the school ground become a more welcoming space for children, but it will also significantly contribute towards building climate resiliency for the community. The result will be a space that is more welcoming for children, while building the community’s climate resilience.  

The plan also includes plenty of green space for kids to interact with nature as they learn and play.  Those same features will serve a dual purpose — helping to make the space climate ready by improving water drainage on site, and adding more shade for temperature control. 

The result will be a space that is more welcoming for children, while building the community’s climate resilience.  

Our Next Steps 

Want to follow along on our climate ready journey? Visit our project page to learn more about the pilot project (construction will resume in the spring!)