Gaining Ground:The Power & Potential of School Ground Greening in Toronto
This study demonstrates that the impacts of greening initiatives in the TDSB are both broad-ranging and encouraging. Particularly striking is that the benefits described emerged across the board. Regardless of the differences among the schools and projects studied, participants perceived the following positive impacts:
- Teachers were able to deliver a broad range of subjects in the outdoor classroom created through greening projects.
- Student learning was enhanced on green school grounds.
- Teachers had renewed enthusiasm for teaching and were using a wide variety of innovative instructional strategies on green school grounds.
- Students demonstrated more positive social behaviour when learning and playing on green school grounds.
- The diversity of play spaces created through greening projects suited a wider array of students than conventional turf and asphalt school grounds.
- Green school grounds promoted the social inclusion of all people, irrespective of gender, race, class or intellectual ability.
- Green school grounds were safer and healthier spaces for students.
- Green school grounds promoted environmental awareness and stewardship.
Conclusion and Recommendations
This report presents clear evidence that green school grounds in the TDSB are a significant asset. They have the potential to enrich the quality of life, education and the environment for present and future generations of young people. Whether greening initiatives are new or well-established, urban or suburban, or located in less or more affluent neighbourhoods, their benefits are broad-ranging and encouraging. They positively influence many aspects of students’ educational experiences, including their learning, their social interactions, their health and safety and their environmental awareness.
The greening movement in the TDSB is still relatively young, dating back only a dozen years or so. Thus, it’s safe to assume that the benefits discussed in this report represent only the early stages of what is actually possible once these programs mature. What this study suggests is that this maturing process could be substantially enhanced if the key impediments to greening initiatives were addressed. Most of these are institutional in nature, reflecting the dominant culture of schooling in Canada — a culture that does not typically recognize or value the benefits of hands-on, outdoor learning. Unfortunately, green school grounds are most often treated as something extra or outside the primary mandate of schools (see S. Barker, Slingsby, & Tilling, 2003; Fisher, 2001).
To overcome this hurdle and integrate green school grounds into the everyday lives of students and teachers, a fundamental shift in the culture of schooling is needed — a shift that can only occur if institutional barriers are removed. Changes are required, particularly with regard to educational policy, teacher training, and curriculum.
- school based
- community change
- school change