Transforming Schoolyards, Our Most Abundant Public Spaces

Green Schoolyards America founder Sharon Danks has a plan to turn asphalt schoolyards across America into green spaces that improve children’s wellbeing, learning, and play while also contributing to the ecological health and resilience of cities. Ashoka’s Michael Zakaras caught up with Danks to learn more.

"Adults perceive pavement as the easiest and cheapest way to create and maintain outside spaces for children's sports and physical fitness. But this thinking doesn't align with current research findings on what promotes children's overall wellbeing, including their health and academic success in the 21st century...

"School grounds are located at the heart of every neighborhood across the country, and they are some of our most intensively used public spaces. Together our school grounds make up a vast amount of land – and yet, the investment in and respect for that land has not been proportional to what we see with other types of public land.

For example, Yosemite National Park receives 5 million annual visitors on more than 760,000 acres – whereas California public schools have 6.2 million child “visitors” per day on 130,000 acres. What if we could make the country's largely paved school grounds more like parks – so every child could experience nature every day, in the places they already inhabit?"