The Case to Include Urban Green Space Planning in School Design

There is no denying that urban greening projects deliver huge benefits to our cities and neighborhoods. By designing our urban areas with greater purpose, we can reap these benefits to deliver positive mental and physical health outcomes for residents, as well as greater sustainability for our cities.

But what about schools? 

A study published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing concluded that “Scientific evidence demonstrating the mental health benefits of access to nature for children can guide policy and urban planning.”

How do green spaces benefit schoolchildren?

The benefits of green spaces for children are simply incredible. A walk in a park aids concentration. Better views from school windows improve academic performance. Children who live in greener neighborhoods benefit from better mental and physical health.

Here are seven benefits that numerous studies and a growing body of research attribute to green space in and around schools.

  1. Better balance and motor coordination

From playing in green environments daily as kindergarteners upwards, instead of a concrete playground, children develop better balance and motor coordination.

  1. Improved cognitive development and academic performance

The amount of green in and around schools has been linked with improved cognitive development, greater focus, and higher academic achievement. Other research has found that natural spaces fire imagination and creative thinking.

  1. More opportunities for physical activity

Give a child green space, and they are more likely to participate in physical activity. Not only does this aid good mental health, but it helps to improve children’s physical health ─ from improving muscle and bone development to tackling obesity.

  1. Less likely to develop nearsightedness

We are beginning to learn through research that children who spend considerable time in sunlight are less likely to develop nearsightedness.

  1. Improved mental health, less stress, and depression

With places to play and seek refuge from the trials of life, green spaces can improve mental health and wellbeing. This is especially the case for those children from low-income families.

  1. Fewer behavioral problems

Perhaps it is being out in nature. Maybe it’s the fresh air. It could be the new perception of struggle, caused by observing nature in the raw. It’s certainly being active with other children from varying backgrounds. Whatever it is ─ and probably a combination of all these ─ children who live and learn in greener environments are less likely to have behavioral problems.

  1. Increased concern for nature

The planet is under enormous stress itself, caused largely by human activity. The more concern our children have for the environment, the more likely it is that they will become adults who will practice environmental concern and live sustainably.

Urban greening in and around schools delivers wider benefits, too

Have you ever heard the saying, ‘Those who play together, stay together’?

Providing green space that enables our children to spend time with other children fosters the socialization of families. This helps to build tolerance and trust within neighborhoods, within children as well as adults. When children perceive their neighborhood as friendly, welcoming, and trusting, our neighborhoods become communities.

Green spaces improve the lives of children and adults. Parents and caregivers who also benefit from green space tend to be less stressed themselves. This means homes are happier, more positive places for children to grow up in ─ improving children’s behavior in their home, their school, and their neighborhood.

How do we improve the ‘greenness’ of our schools?

It’s clear that improving the green space in and around our schools provides real and tangible benefits to children, their parents, and the wider community. Shouldn’t it be incumbent upon our urban planners to deliver these benefits?

Our city authorities should ensure that codes and regulations not only encourage the incorporation of green space in and around schools but make it compulsory. We shouldn’t be minimizing urban green space. We should be maximizing it.

We should ensure that we integrate varied and multi-use green space in our school designs, helping to increase access to green space in lower-income neighborhoods.

We should also consider innovative solutions, such as green roofs, pop-up parks, improved landscaping, and so on.

What ideas do you have to improve the green spaces in and around our schools? We’d love to hear what you think ─ contact ACB Consulting and let us know. We are always receptive to ideas that will help us deliver better communities.

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