Canadian researchers found that green school grounds enhanced learning, compared with conventional turf and asphalt school grounds; that the more varied green play spaces suited a wider array of students and promoted social inclusion, regardless of gender, race, class, or intellectual ability; and they were safer.
– Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods, p. 220
Many teachers are faced with working in a concrete school and therefore face the dilemma of making nature play and outdoor education possible for their students. I have been in many conversations where teachers who are interested in taking their students outside say, “Where can I take them? There is no forest/creek/pond/beach/garden at or near my school.” Not all teachers interested in taking their students outside are gung-ho about struggling to fight an up-hill battle. I, on the other hand, love up-hill battles? No, maybe I’m just experienced with them … I recognize that when something is easily accessible that it is more inviting to take on, but I think that we as educators all need to join the ranks on this one.
So, how is it possible to make a concrete school green?
1. Start the plea for a school garden. Then, make it work.
- Preferably, an outdoor bed garden so that multiple children can access it at the same time. (I have tried gardening in a greenhouse with my class before and it was very difficult because of the limited space within the greenhouse).
2. If there are any areas on school property that are treed/bushed/wild … make it work.
- You can thank my principal for the inspiration on this one. When she was at a concrete school she created a trail in a “wild” area on school grounds. Although it was only 100 feet or so long (and the area was only 10 feet wide), she made it work.
- Make it into an Enchanted Edible Forest (wild bush/forest food garden).
- Go exploring for insects, reptiles, flowers …
- Use it for a sit spot locations (more on this later …)
3. If there are any trees on the property, make it work.
- Use them as sit spot locations.
- Do a year long tree study.
- Climb trees.
4. Plant trees.
5. Make a plea for a natural playscape and make it happen.
- The city of Campbell River is in the process of transforming one of the city parks to a natural playscape!!! (insert cheer, plus jumping, here).
- Curious? Read this <—.
- Want to know more about natural playscapes? Read how to create your own natural playscape here <—.
6. Make an indoor nature table.
8. Keep your calm and cry a little… ok, a lot… but only in private.
I don’t think that these actions are quite the same as having a true natural play area, such as a forest. In fact, I view these as great things to have in addition to a natural play area. But, one has to to do what one has to do.
I truly believe in the importance of nature play. It is the basis of my primary program and it is something that I view as vitally important for an inspiring, fulfilling, and worthwhile education. Wherever I may be in the future, it is important to me that I live it. For, as Mahatma Gandhi says, it would be dishonest of me not to.