I remember my schoolyard when I was a child. It was basically the school parking lot with a few spaces marked off for softball. Kids with knee and arm scrapes visited the nurse’s station almost daily. It was icy in the winter and too hot in the late spring and early fall to play on, so many students just stood around and talked during recess. My, how times have changed.
These days, some communities are fortunate enough to have what is often referred to as “green” schoolyards and kids are much better off for it, according to a new report.
"Green schoolyards can include outdoor classrooms, native gardens, storm water capture, traditional play equipment, vegetable gardens, trails, trees and more," Dr. Stephen Pont said in an American Academy of Pediatrics news release.
He and his colleagues found that green schoolyards provide benefits in areas such as heart health, weight control, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and stress relief.
"And outside of school time, these schoolyards can be open for the surrounding community to use, benefitting everyone," added Pont, medical director of the Texas Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity. Now, that’s a great idea!
For the report, researchers from Pont’s team, collected data from prior studies related to the benefits of green schoolyards.
Other experts, such as Richard Louv, co-founder of the Minneapolis-based Children & Nature Network, believe that children need to be exposed to a more natural setting for play, exercise and a break during the school day.
"Too many children have no access to quality school grounds. In many neighborhoods, the standard play space is a barren asphalt playground or a concrete slab surrounded by chain link fence -- a completely unsuitable environment for children's play," said Louv.
Several U.S. cities have jumped on the green schoolyard band-wagon including, Austin, Texas; Grand Rapids, Mich.; San Francisco, Calif.; Providence, R.I.; and Madison, Wis.
Perhaps, other cities will take a harder look at the positive results from this report and request greener schoolyards so that more kids can enjoy and benefit from the rewards of exploring a more natural setting.
The study findings were presented recently at the American Academy of Pediatrics national meeting in Chicago. Research presented at meetings is usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.