New international group forms to address an increasingly sedentary and risk-averse generation of children disconnected from nature.
Growing school grounds movement gains international voice with formation of The International School Grounds Alliance.
Berkeley, California (April 24, 2012) – Organizations working to enrich the lives of children through outdoor learning and play have a new global school ground network where they can turn for ideas and support.
Leaders in the school ground movement from Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States have formed the nonprofit International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA)(www.internationalschoolgrounds.org), which brings together a wealth of experience in the fields of school ground use, design, education and management around the globe. The ISGA invites like-minded organizations and professionals to become members and collaborate to nurture and grow the international movement to help schools make the most of learning and play opportunities on their grounds.
“Children around the world, growing up in very different environments and cultural settings, all need engaging childhood learning and play experiences for healthy development and enjoyment,” says ISGA co-founder Sharon Danks of Bay Tree Design in California. “The ISGA is not only a resource, but is also a call to action for teachers, parents, and students to go outside, improve their school grounds and explore the world first-hand.”
The ISGA believes that school grounds should:
- provide powerful opportunities for hands-on learning
- nurture students’ physical, social and emotional development and wellbeing
- reflect and embrace their local ecological, social and cultural context
- embrace risk-taking as an essential component of learning and child development
- be open public spaces, accessible to their communities
The ISGA does this by:
- focusing on the way school grounds are used, designed and managed
- facilitating a dialogue about innovative research, design, education and policy
- fostering partnerships between professionals and organizations across the globe
- organizing international conferences, gatherings and other programs
- advocating for student and school community participation in the design, construction and stewardship of school grounds
- promoting the value of enriched school grounds as uniquely positioned, engaging environments for children
To commemorate the founding of the ISGA, the organization has launched a website (www.internationalschoolgrounds.org) and just released a brief new inspirational video, entitled Voices from the International School Grounds Movement, which includes perspectives from leaders in the school ground movement and inspiring photographs of school grounds around the world. (www.greenschoolyards.org/blog).
School grounds are crucial childhood landscapes, both in terms of the considerable time spent there and the messages to children (both explicit and implicit) that come from their design and care. They are located in almost every neighborhood, town and city around the world, and often act as important community gathering places in addition to their roles as places of learning and play during the school day. For many children, school grounds are the primary place they play outside—so what they experience there resonates with them and helps to shape who they are.
“In this rapidly urbanizing century, there has been a substantial erosion of children’s outdoor time both for play and learning in the space of a single generation. The reasons for this decline – as well as the negative repercussions – are numerous. With ISGA we want to address these issuesand reverse the trend.” says ISGA co-founder Cam Collyer of Evergreen in Canada.
In today’s world, children’s opportunities for outdoor learning and play in nature are disappearing around the globe, due to a variety of influences that include:
- cities that are poorly designed for both children and natural systems
- overprogrammed childhoods that leave children with little free time
- powerful parental fears of “stranger danger” and an increasing fear of risk and liability
- school grounds that are barren expanses with little to support children’s play and learning
ISGA co-founder Mary Jackson of Learning through Landscapes in the United Kingdom says, “As research from around the world tells us, learning and play outside can have a truly positive impact on our children. Their results improve, they concentrate more in lessons, they develop their interpersonal and social skills and have improved mental and physical health. Already many schools around the world are seeing this is true as they develop and use their grounds for the benefit of children, but there is still a long way to go and we want to be able to share lessons learned with schools across the globe. The ISGA is a great way of sharing these lessons.”
Join the Movement!
We invite organizations and individuals to join us and declare their commitment to creating and caring for these special environments that support children and young people’s learning, play and wellbeing. Membership is free. Join the ISGA to help build this global movement:
- Visit our website – International School Grounds Alliance:www.internationalschoolgrounds.org
- Sign up to become a member –www.greenschoolyards.org/home/join_us
- Watch the video – Voices from the International School Grounds Movement: www.greenschoolyards.org/blog
- Join the discussion in our LinkedIn group: “International School Grounds Alliance — Public Forum”www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=4139778&trk=hb_side_g
The next ISGA conference will be hosted by Evergreen in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in Fall 2013.
For More Information
- Please contact Sharon Danks at info (at) internationalschoolgrounds.orgor 510-644-1320
- Inspiring, full color images of school grounds around the world are available upon request.