If you think of a schoolyard, you will mostly see a paved yard, sub-divided in an area for the little ones and an area for the larger kids. Schoolchildren are running along, hurting their knees on the hard paving tiles. Most schoolyards indeed still look they did fifty years ago. Where everything inside the school building has changed – school benches that have been swapped for ergonomically designed tables and chairs – the schoolyard in the year 2014 often is a concrete desert.
Social scientists have been vying for a green schoolyard – despite the arguments against it (such as maintenance and loss of transparency) – as it has so much more to offer for the development for schoolchildren.
A Healthy Schoolyard will offer children the space to move about and play in a challenging, green and smoke-free environment. This is important for a healthy development. A Healthy Schoolyard will stimulate the imagination, encourages movement and teaches about the importance of nature. Both during and after school hours. This has a positive effect on the ability to concentrate and learn.
Research Vrije Universiteit
Jolanda Maas (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and Dieuwke Hovinga (Hogeschool Leiden) have initiated a study, together with Stichting Veldwerk Nederland, to chart the consequences of a green versus a grey schoolyard for students in grad 2 to 4.
The researchers distinguished five different fields: attention and concentration (1); intensity and variation in playing and movement (2); social and emotional development (3), motor development (4) and mathematical achievements (5).
A Schoolyard with natural elements like grass, a vegetable garden and trees is higher valued than a grey playground. Green schoolyards are more fun, nicer to look at and to be around with and invoke more adventurous games than grey areas. They also offer more fun in playing: the green playground is more often used for various learning activities than a paved schoolyard.