If you’ve walked past a school in the past few years you’ve probably seen a cold, heavy steel fence encasing a paved-over stretch of land flanked by an intricate and brightly colored jungle gym made of plastic and metal. But where are the trees? Where is the greenery?

Emerging research in the field of urban greening and urban forests points to the benefits that green space has on our well-being. A concept that’s quickly gaining momentum in this realm is green schoolyards. In this article originally published by the Children & Nature Network, Sharon Gamson Danks, CEO of Green Schoolyards America, explains that a green school yard can include outdoor classrooms, interactive flower and/or vegetable gardens, playing trails, trees and plants, ecologically made climbing structures, and more.

Green schoolyards give children the opportunity to experience a healthy outdoor environment as part of their daily routines. Danks states that schoolyard greening creates an educational environment that connects nature and sustainability with “place-based learning, hands-on curricula, and imaginative play”.

According to this Green Schoolyards project by the Children & Nature Network, schoolyards can have positive health, learning, and engagement benefits on children of all ages:

Health and Wellbeing

  1. Green schoolyards promote imaginative and explorative play which fosters a creative environment and a healthy outlet for energy
  2. Green schoolyards promote healthier lifestyles through increased physical activity
  3. Green spaces have therapeutic properties which help improve mental well-being and contribute to calmer children with decreased negative emotions

Improved Learning Environment

  1. Studies have shown that children that actively engage with nature have ‘better grades, higher test scores, and enhanced knowledge’ on a variety of subjects
  2. Green schoolyards can help children focus and regulate their behavior and attention patterns

Better Access to Nature

  1. Green schoolyards have the ability to provide every child with access to nature on a daily basis, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds
  2. Hands-on access to nature helps promote sensory rich experiences in an increasingly digitized world

Green schoolyards will teach the next generation about how to co-exist with nature and live mindfully. They will inspire students to engage in and learn more about organically-grown food, wildlife habitats, nature-based creativity, and sustainable practices.

Public school districts are among the largest landowners in cities and/or towns around the globe. Choices made by school district developers on how they create and manage their landscapes directly impacts whether younger generations will grow up in a concrete world or a green one. Which choice would you choose? I think it’s an easy decision. Go green!