The Greening of Schoolyards: Campus Master Plans are Vital Tools

by Jane Tesner Kleiner, ASLA, PLA

Hough Elementary School’s outdoor classroom
Students practicing their year-end play in Hough Elementary School’s outdoor classroom / image: Jane Tesner Kleiner

I recently attended lunch recess at a local elementary school. With a bright orange measuring tape and a can of white marking paint in hand, I made my way to the far corner of the playground. It was a typical elementary school setting: lots of grass, a few trees, pavement play, and manufactured play structures. There was not much else, including shade, and it was pretty warm already. Before I knew it, though, a small cluster of kids trailed behind me, asking the classic, “Whatcha doing?” When I said I was marking the location for their new Butterfly, Sensory, and Strawberry Garden, they told me they were going to help. And as we talked, I gave them the BIG PICTURE of what we wanted to change on their campus. I shared with them the campus Master Plan.

Greening of Schoolyards (GOSY) projects can involve many things, but central to them all are access for everyone and user safety. Of course, in a world of sanitized “play structures” and manufactured authenticity, adding natural areas can come with concerns, many of which stem from lack of experience on the part of stakeholders. They aren’t uncreative…they just haven’t redesigned large, open spaces. When it comes to schools, thoughtful master planning encompasses two main objectives: enhancing the campus and building buy-in among numerous constituent groups.

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