Benefits of Green Schoolyards goes beyond play & curriculum needs
There has been a great deal of research that supports the multitude of benefits of green schoolyards. The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) has outlined top outcomes in their national action plan, including improved academic performance, increased physical activity and beneficial play. Another key outcome is the mental health benefits including calming, resiliency and restoration. For academic standards, great programs that teach standards, such as the Next Generation Science Standards, in outdoor settings such as pollinator gardens, greenhouses and vegetable beds provide real-world and hands-on experiences.
One of the major outcomes that we have seen this past year in working with a school's Green Team every week, is the social and emotional learning. When students have the opportunities to work in groups, classes, programs and individually in Green Schoolyards, they have increased opportunities to build relationships with staff and students. The C&NN highlights more cooperative play, civil behavior and positive relationship building, as well as increased self awareness and self management. We've seen it too! Amazing stories about students who gained confidence, developed a sense of pride, as well as found activities that helped them to calm and recenter.
Staff have suggested that working and playing on a green schoolyard increases opportunities to learn new skills, nuture and care for their school grounds as well as learn through touch. Kids can self-pace their learning through digging, exploration, cause/effect and trying new skills (planting seeds, watering, building, etc.).
The Aspen Institute's National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development highlights the need for supporting students' social and emotional learning in addition to academic development. On a Federal level, work is moving forward to identify programs, training and key resources to support social and emotional learning so that when students enter the classroom, they are ready (and eager) to learn. Green Schoolyards and programs that utilize these spaces are key to support the students various needs so that can concentrate, focus and engage in active learning.