School Ground Greening

The Learning Grounds Guide for Schools

A step-by-step road map to help you start your school ground greening process.

View and download (PDF, 3.4 MB)

All Hands in the Dirt: A Guide to Designing and Creating Natural School Grounds

This manual will guide you through the planning process, providing tips and templates for designing a site that reflects your local natural environment and the ideas of all involved. 68 pages.

View the guide (HTML)

Getting Started Workshop

This comprehensive resource includes all the material you need to deliver an inspirational workshop to kick-start a greening project at your school. Download the PowerPoint presentation and audience handouts below:

PowerPoint Presentation (PPT, 8.5 MB)

Handouts for your audience

Benefits of school ground greening (PDF, 40 kB)

5-step process - Quick list (PDF, 80 kB)

Top 10 volunteer management tips (PDF, 68 kB)

Quick fundraising tips (PDF, 64 kB)

Safety considerations on school grounds (PDF, 68 kB)

Seasonal strategies for maintenance (PDF, 56 kB)

Resource List (PDF, 60 kB)

Workshop evaluation for participants (PDF, 60 kB)

Design Ideas for the Outdoor Classroom:
Dig it, Plant it, Build it and Paint it!

A 100-page easy-to-follow collection of ideas and techniques for creating native plant and vegetable gardens, and a whole range of built and artistic features for your school ground.


Introduction (PDF, 110 kB)

Gardening Techniques

Container Gardening (PDF, 680 kB)
Compost and Mulch (PDF, 1.1 MB)
Food Growing (PDF, 2 MB)
Rooftop Garden (PDF, 600 kB)

Natural Features

Natural Habitat Communities (PDF, 1.2 MB)
Plants for Play and Learning (PDF, 480 kB)
Windbreaks, Hedgerows and Living Fences (PDF, 470 kB)

Built Features

Gathering Places (PDF, 330 kB)
Shade Shelters (PDF, 720 kB)
Seating (PDF, 560 kB)
Pathways (PDF, 830 kB)
Loose Parts Play (PDF, 700 kB)
Signs, Gates and Fences (PDF, 1.3 MB)
Weather Study and Observation Features (PDF, 300 kB)

Artistic Elements

Murals and Mosaics (PDF, 660 kB)
Asphalt Painting (PDF, 880 kB)

Landscape and Child Development: A Guide for Early Years–Kindergarten Play-Learning Environments, 2nd Ed.

Produced in partnership with the TDSB, this resource provides guidelines for designing outdoor play spaces that meet the developmental needs of our youngest students. Featuring colourful design and an abundance of photographs, the book covers best practices for many audiences—including principals, teachers, designers and construction staff.

View and download (PDF, 15.3 MB)

Small Wonders: Designing Vibrant, Natural Landscapes
for Early Childhood

This introductory guide provides an overview to designing great play environments for young children. Through a series of questions and suggestions accompanied by beautiful photographs, it stimulates creative thinking and helps readers to analyze and re-imagine their existing site to create dynamic, nurturing and safe outdoor spaces for early childhood.

View and download (PDF, 2.5 MB)

Designing for Shade & Energy Conservation

This guide includes practical tips for involving the school community in the design process, conducting a shade assessment of the school ground, creating a planting plan and developing a fundraising strategy. 89 pages.

View and download (PDF, 3.4 MB)

Shade for Kids Workshop

Kids are melting in the sun and heat on asphalt school grounds all across Canada. They need shade! This resource shows you how to create refuge from the sun with trees, sun shelters, shade sails and more.

Handouts for Your Audience

Fact Sheet 1: Creating a shade strategy at your school (PDF, 360 kB)

Fact Sheet 2: Ideas for natural shade (PDF, 440 kB)

Fact Sheet 3: Built shade (PDF, 640 kB)

Fact Sheet 4: Selecting trees (PDF, 100 kB)

Fact Sheet 5: Designing for shade on your school grounds (PDF, 530 kB)

Fact Sheet 6: Tree care guide (PDF, 1 MB)

Workshop evaluation for participants (PDF, 40 kB)

Webinar: Creating Natural Play and Learning Environments

As an extension of the classroom, outdoor play-learning environments have the potential to be vibrant landscapes that support childhood development, foster children’s curiosity and allow children to explore nature on a daily basis. This webinar supports schools, daycares and learning centres with inspiring examples, design principles, best practices and quick-starts to transform their outdoor learning spaces.

Hands for Nature: A Volunteer Management Handbook

This booklet provides practical tips and ideas for working effectively with volunteers to create and sustain greening projects.

View and download (PDF, 4.7 MB)

Caring for Your Gardens & Plants

Vandalism & Safety

Tips and strategies for discouraging vandalism and addressing safety issues through two main strategies: site design and community involvement.

View and download (PDF, 408.4 kB)

Grounds For Action: Promoting Physical Activity through School Ground Greening in Canada

By Anne C. Bell and Janet E. Dyment

This paper presents the findings of a national survey that explored the relationship between green school grounds and physical activity at elementary schools across Canada. Given the growing epidemic of inactivity and obesity among Canadian children, school grounds offer important opportunities for promoting physical activity and health.

View and download (PDF, 3 MB)

Gaining Ground: The Power and Potential of School Ground Greening in the TDSB

By Janet Dyment, Ph.D.

This study of greening initiatives in Canada’s largest school board identifies compelling benefits of hands-on outdoor learning on student engagement, achievement, behaviour, health, safety and environmental awareness. It argues forcefully for greater institutional support of green school grounds at both the school board and provincial level.

View and download (PDF, 3.3 MB)

Read the Executive Summary (530 kB)

Nature Nurtures: Investigating the Potential of School Grounds

This report is a comprehensive review of the foundational literature pertaining to school ground naturalization that continue to support the case for creating diverse learning environments today. The current work of experts in the field continues to build on the literature examined in Nature Nurtures.

View and download (PDF, 2.2 MB)

Read the Executive Summary (PDF, 1.8 MB)

Shade for Kids: A Policy Primer for School Boards

Want to convince your school board to take action and provide more shade for kids? This colourful, eight-page brochure presents the case and offers six strategies for creating a comprehensive sun policy that includes shade on the school grounds. 

View and download (PDF, 6.2 MB)

School Ground Greening: A Policy and Planning Guidebook

This resource provides practical guidelines to help school boards promote school ground greening through policies, programs and operating procedures. It also contains a description of project types, including education and environmental rationales, case studies, and recommended best practices. 64 pages.

View and download (PDF, 1.4 MB)