Today’s guest blog piece highlights how schools can help children and communities benefit from access to natural environments. Written by Jaime Zaplatosch, director of Green Schoolyards for Healthy Communities at the Children & Nature Network, the piece advocates for equity-based green schoolyard development.
Imagine a schoolyard that is more than a sparse blacktop with minimal playground equipment available only to students during school hours. Picture a multi-functional landscaped space that includes places for students, teachers, parents and community members to play, learn, explore and grow all the time.
This is the green schoolyards vision of the Children & Nature Network, or C&NN, which is leading a global movement to increase equitable access to nature so that children can thrive. We advocate for schoolyards to include outdoor classrooms, native and pollinator gardens, storm water capture, traditional and natural play areas, edible gardens, trails and more.
Over the past few decades, our society has become increasingly urban. Our children are spending more time indoors than ever before. Yet continually emerging research tells us that spending time in nature is good for us. It is associated with improved cardiovascular health, enhanced immune system functioning and better pregnancy and birth outcomes, as well as decreased stress, better self-regulation, improved attention and enhanced social connectedness and cooperation.