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Openlands Co-Hosts National Green Schoolyards Summit

May 21, 2015


Openlands, in partnership with Healthy Schools Campaign, hosted the first National Green Schoolyards Summit May 11-13. The gathering brought together organizations from across the country, which are involved in transforming schoolyards into native gardens and playgrounds. These spaces encourage physical activity, play, learning, and engagement with nature, transforming urban settings while simultaneously addressing environmental issues. The summit partnered with Children and Nature Network and was generously funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and Grantmakers in Health.

Held at Loyola University of Chicago, the National Green Schoolyards Summit focused on bringing together practitioners, experts, new organizations, and supporters of the green schoolyard movement to understand similarities and differences and think about how to bring green schoolyards to every school across the country. Workshops and sessions:

  • explored new funding streams for these programs;
  • discussed how to evaluate the impact on students, schools, and families;
  • and strategized how national policy can play a role in expanding initiatives across the country.

Heavily involved in the summit's success was Jaime Zaplatosch, Openlands Education Director. "For many decades, green schoolyards have succeeded in pockets around the country," she said. "The benefits of green schoolyards – mental and physical health, open space access, academic performance, environmental, community building, and urban infrastructure – are individually impressive and collectively incredible. All children and communities should have access to a green schoolyard."

(Donald J. Morrill Math and Science Specialty School)
 

Participants shared models of successful green schoolyard programs. Space To Grow: Greening Chicago Schoolyards is an Openlands program in partnership with Healthy Schools Campaign that was highlighted as one of these successful models. Openlands staff led a tour of Donald J. Morrill Math and Science Specialty School, a Chicago schoolyard that has been transformed through Space to Grow and that provides students, their families, and the broader community with the opportunity for active play, space for physical education classes, opportunities for outdoor learning, gardening and environmental literacy, and engagement with art.

The National Green Schoolyards Summit was attended by leaders in education, health, and philanthropy. Particpants included the U.S. Department of Education, National League of Cities, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

 

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