Monday, March 4, 2024

Schoolyards help cities adapt to climate change

Vibrant, green schoolyards not only address climate change issues, but they can also prepare children for a nature-filled future.

Organised by the International Association of Horticultural Producers (AIPH) in collaboration with the Worshipful Company of Gardeners (WCoG) and sponsor Expo 2023 Doha Qatar, the AIPH Green City Briefings 2022-23 are a series of one-hour webinars focussing on cities around the world that can demonstrate significant progress in including plants and nature in their city’s form and function. The focus of the sixth briefing was the role of schoolyards in becoming transformative spaces for climate-ready cities with cohesive communities.

Dominic Register, Director of Education and Director of the Centre for Education Transformation at Salzburg Global Seminar, opened the session, commenting, “The experiences we offer school-age children are going to be vital in driving the behaviour change that is absolutely necessary to meet climate change goals.”

He then welcomed speaker Raphaëlle Thiollier, Project Manager for the City of Paris, France. Paris recently won the ‘Living Green for Social Cohesion’ category of the inaugural AIPH World Green City Awards for the OASIS Schoolyards Project. This city-wide project seeks to renew and green existing urban playgrounds. Schoolyards cover a large portion of the city’s surface area and are seldom more than 250 metres apart, so are vital for helping to combat climate related issues such as urban heat island effect.

“In Paris, we consider changing the schoolyards a societal issue,” Raphaëlle said. “We need to choose what sort of environment we want our children to be in. Children spend three hours a day in the schoolyard and it is important that this time is useful for their development.”

Children were consulted at the very beginning of the project to discover what they wanted from their schoolyards. The designs built on the ideas they provided, incorporating spaces for biodiversity and diversified play activities, to help educate children on the importance of nature.

Greening schoolgrounds is attracting attention globally. Non-profit organisation Evergreen is dedicated to creating green community spaces and has supported over 6,000 schools across Canada. It has developed its ‘Climate ready schools’ pilot which aims to turn schoolgrounds into nature-rich environments that also address urban challenges.

Heidi Campbell, Senior Program Manager for Evergreen, explained: “Public schoolgrounds are valuable assets with potential to have a positive influence on student development, physical and mental health, as well as learning and social behaviour, while addressing the effects of climate change.”

The pilot took place at the Irma Coulson Public School in Ontario, Canada. With a tailor-made plan, the re-design took community needs into consideration and prioritised the use of native plants. Education, inclusivity, and fun were also a significant part of the design to facilitate outdoor learning for all the students.

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