When I left my job as Executive Director of the Boston Schoolyard Funders Collaborative in 2008 I began to interview colleagues who ran schoolyard development programs in other states. In every case I was told that keeping day-to-day operations running was so time consuming that there remained little or no time to network with others doing similar work. It was also clear from the outset that many of the challenges facing programmatic staff were common to all practitioners – structuring partnerships, funding, community organizing, innovative design concepts, maintenance & sustainability, professional development, curriculum alignment, and more. I began to see that we could all benefit from sharing “best practices” with each other and that beginning an ongoing dialogue might also encourage collaborative efforts that would help secure and expand our efforts. For example, everyone I spoke with felt that research on student achievement (in green schoolyards) would be a boon to all and that a shared approach might make it possible for several programs to participate. Lastly, I spoke with people who wanted to start developing green schoolyards and I asked them where they went for advice on how to get started. They vented their frustration that there was no “one stop shopping” place to seek information. This is when I suggested that a lean but productive network might help newcomers get started, allow us to share successful approaches to common issues, and might also help get potential collaborations off the back burner. As I continued my research I set up a Google Alert account (a kind of internet clipping service) with the keywords “green schoolyards” and “outdoor classrooms” and this led to the discovery that there are hundreds of schools around the country (and the world!) focused on greening their school grounds. We are already a Movement! We just haven’t organized as one. The Green Schoolyard Network (GSN) is a work in progress. The mission is to create a Community of Practice for schoolyard activists so we can share our successes and failures, collaborate on issues of mutual concern, and speak with a collective voice to improve and expand the Movement.
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