Join us for the next ISGA conference in Berlin - Sept. 2017!

 Join us for the SCHOOLYARD DIVERSITY conference in Berlin, Germany - September 4-6, 2017

Join us for the SCHOOLYARD DIVERSITY conference in Berlin, Germany - September 4-6, 2017

This September, our colleagues at Grün Macht Schule will host the 6th global conference on school grounds for the International School Grounds Alliance. Entitled, "Schoolyard Diversity," this exciting event will be held in Berlin, Germany from September 4-6, 2017. We hope you will join us for three days of vibrant ideas and discussions with visionary leaders of the green school ground movement from Germany and around the world. The conference will include inspirational speakers, tours of Berlin's green schoolyards, and hands-on schoolyard greening activities. 

It's a special treat to be able to visit school grounds in Berlin, where the greening movement is now more than 25 years old, and is firmly established and thriving. Over the years, hundreds of schools in Berlin have been transformed from traditional paved urban environments to art-filled, nature-oriented spaces that nurture children and provide fantastic opportunities for all types of play. This conference is also a special opportunity to gain a detailed understanding of the excellent programs and practices in Berlin that have worked successfully over the last few decades to help produce diversity in design, education and ecology.

Join us at the conference to learn about the latest trends and innovations, case studies, best practices, and creative thinking and teaching in the green school ground design field, and pick up strategies for maintenance, advocacy and funding. Additional conference features include a resource and networking fair, a sunset boat trip with music and dining, and access to the International Garden exhibition which will be in Berlin at the same time! Our Schoolyard Diversity Conference will be of interest to school leaders, educators, architects, designers and planners. The conference will be conducted in English.

We hope to see you in Berlin! 
Space is limited, so register soon!

Please follow this link for more information and to enroll:

New Video! "Green Grounds for Health and Learning"

We are thrilled to announce the launch of a new short video entitled, Green Grounds for Health and Learning, filmed during the conference in Lund, Sweden.

Why do children need Green School Grounds?  In the video, seven of ISGA's Leadership Council members give their personal answer to this question and speak about why Green School Grounds—living landscapes—are important for children's play. They tell us their thoughts about how consciously designed landscapes in preschool and school environments can give children and adults the opportunity to meet each other and, with curiosity, explore life and the world. The film explains how schools can create space for plants and animals, and turn paved surfaces into sites that promote biodiversity. Green School Grounds play a crucial role in urban sustainable development, an endeavor in which we are all involved.

The film was created by Movium Think Tank, SLU and Naturskolan i Lund, City of Lund in cooperation with the International School Grounds Alliance and Region Skane.

Here's the link to the video to share with your colleagues:

Enjoy the film!

Green Grounds for Health and Learning - Lund, Sweden - Sept. 2016

The Green Grounds for Health and Learning conference was a great success!

The 220 participants from 16 different countries around the world took part in a wide variety of lectures, seminars and practical sessions, both indoors and outdoors. They also took field trips to exciting outdoor environments in Lund, Alnarp, and Malmö, Sweden and Copenhagen, Denmark. All three days of the conference were blessed with wonderful sunny weather and high summer temperatures.

We would like to thank all of you who in various ways participated and helped to make the 5th International School Grounds Conference so successful. International cooperation is important and it became clear these days that the similarities between countries are greater than the differences. In all countries there is a need for nature as a basis for learning and good health.

Follow this link to find material from the conference including presentations from keynote speakers and from the breakout sessions. The conference hosts will publish more material in the coming weeks. Please download and share this information!

We will also release a short film soon, featuring ISGA Leadership Council members from around the world. Please visit our website again soon to see the video.

To see and/or contribute photos from the conference, please use #ISGA2016 on Instagram.

To get updates about future international events arranged by the International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA) visit the conference page on ISGA's website. To become a member of ISGA, please complete the form on this page. Membership in ISGA is free and offers the benefits of our quarterly newsletter, invitations to ISGA conferences, and more. 

 Conference directors, Anders Kjellsson and Anna Ekblad from Naturskolan i Lund, opened the conference with a warm welcome to Sweden.

Conference directors, Anders Kjellsson and Anna Ekblad from Naturskolan i Lund, opened the conference with a warm welcome to Sweden.

 The conference dinner featured great conversation, delicious Swedish foods, and lively music from a local band.

The conference dinner featured great conversation, delicious Swedish foods, and lively music from a local band.

 Conference participants toured local schools to see their grounds and hear about their programs.

Conference participants toured local schools to see their grounds and hear about their programs.

 Some conference tours also visited fantastic local parks, like this one in Malmö, Sweden.

Some conference tours also visited fantastic local parks, like this one in Malmö, Sweden.

Observing sunset and sunrise at Kwaru Beach

Second grade students at Sekolah Alam Nurul Islam spent the night at Kwaru Beach to observe the sunset and sunrise processes. After dark, they identified constellations in the sky and observed the beach at the night.

See more photos on their website.

Contributed by Muhammad Ariefuddin, Sekolah Alam Nurul Islam
hotos by Muhammad Ariefuddin

Sleman, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Learning Cultural Heritages in Solo

Fourth grade students at Sekolah Alam Nurul Islam traveled by train from Jogja to Solo. Along the way, students learned about social phenomena around them. In Solo, they visited the Batik Village learning how to make several different types of Batik. Then, they went to the Radya Pustaka Museum to see the cultural heritage pieces from Surakarta Palace.


See more photos on their website.

Contributed by Muhammad Ariefuddin, Sekolah Alam Nurul Islam
Photos by Muhammad Ariefuddin

Sleman, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Green Technology and Lobster Conservation in Indonesia

Fifth grade students at Sekolah Alam Nurul Islam took a field trip to Sepanjang. They visited Baron Technopark to learn about green energy technology like solar, wind power and biodiesel. They also toured an onsite desalination plant, which provides drinking water for the area.

After their tour, they visited the local beach and observed the rich marine life. 

See more photos on their website.

Contributed by Muhammad Ariefuddin, Sekolah Alam Nurul Islam
Photos by Muhammad Ariefuddin

Sleman, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Starting a Fruit Grove with Funds from Recycling

Fifth grade students at Sekolah Alam Nurul Islam wanted more fruit trees. In order to purchase trees, students worked together to save and sort recyclable materials. They then sold these items in order to buy fruit trees.

See more photos on their website.

Contributed by Muhammad Ariefuddin, Sekolah Alam Nurul Islam
Photos by Muhammad Ariefuddin

Sleman, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

International School Grounds Month - in Nepal

  Image © Wildlife Conservation Nepal

Image © Wildlife Conservation Nepal

International School Grounds Month kicked off in style in Nepal, where children in schools in Kathmandu Valley escaped their classrooms to learn more about the natural world around them.  As part of the Nepal Nature School Eco-Smart program, Ritu Gurung (Senior Program Officer at Wildlife Conservation Nepal) helped the schools bring their curriculum alive by taking the learning outdoors.  Children explored the ‘biology’ of a tree and its role in the Earth’s global and local ecosystems and also discussed how humans and animals use trees.  The Kathmandu Valley teachers built on this work by examining trees in detail and developing children’s understanding through direct contact with trees and parts of trees, such as ‘cookies’, which are thin slices through the trunk or branches of a tree.

In an interesting twist, groups of children engaged in a physical activity aimed at cementing knowledge of the component parts of a tree.  Having learned about the heartwood, xylem, phloem, cambium and bark, children recreated this structure with their own bodies. Rhymes and chants celebrated the role trees play in the life of the Kathmandu Valley.


ISGA in Bucharest, Romania

ISGA Leadership Council member Julie Mountain was invited to represent the International School Grounds Alliance at an early years conference in Bucharest, Romania. Hosted by First7 Parents and Educators Coaching, the conference attracted 130 delegates from the Bucharest area, who came to hear about the latest research and practice in early years wellbeing. Julie joined international speakers on dance, mindfulness and happiness and provided a workshop focusing on ways to evaluate wellbeing outdoors.

Outdoor play has an important role in developing young children’s self esteem, physical health, collaborative skills and confidence, all key elements that combine to create that all important feeling of wellbeing. Participants at the workshop heard about the work of Professor Ferre Laevers (Leuven University) and looked at examples of Professor Susan Herrington’s 7Cs approach to playspace design (University of British Columbia). Practical activities included testing ways to use ‘loose parts’ and ‘free and found’ resources to stimulate sustained shared thinking, problem solving and communication skills. All in all, a great opportunity to promote International School Grounds Month in Romania.

Julie Mountain is Director of Play Learning Life, based in Winchester, England.

International School Grounds Month 2016

If you're putting dates into your diary for 2016 don't forget International School Grounds Month which will take place again in May this year. We'll be updating our resources booklet again this year and we'd love to hear what you'll be up to in your school grounds during that month.

Send a story and photos of your celebrations to info (at) internationalschoolgrounds (dot) org

Lone Pine Elementary in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan celebrate their grounds

Lone Pine Elementary in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan - in conjunction with their PYP IB Unit Express Yourself - spent time outside during International School Grounds Month.

Their teacher, Barbarba Winkfield, said "[The students] decided they wanted to take action and sit in our outdoor classroom named the Hideout, and write poetry. They told me that they were more inspired to write poetry sitting in outside than inside. Student were inspired to write poems about a flock of white geese that took off from the lake that our Hideout overlooks. We go to our outdoor classroom often to do many types of lessons that include math, social studies, and science. I enjoy taking micro activities from the inside and making them macro activities outside."


Prospect Learning Center and Jefferson Academy grow pizzas!

A school based in Washington DC tells us what they were up to during International School Grounds month.

We worked with our students doing outdoor science and art lessons while tending our school gardens. Students learned about plant life cycle, recorded plant growth rates, harvested organic vegetables from their gardens and enjoyed them in cooking lessons.

Getting busy in the UK for International School Grounds Month

Play Learning Life is thrilled to be supporting International School Grounds Month and we have had a very busy May so far, celebrating the diversity and potential of school grounds with schools and early years settings throughout in the UK.  We have:

  • Collaborated with staff in an Essex Foundation Stage Unit on early years outdoor playground improvements
  • Worked with children at a Hampshire primary school on pond improvements and a new fire pit
  • Introduced action research projects to a group of early years practitioners in Dudley, examining the elements that contribute to high quality outdoor learning and play
  • Created banners with children at a London school, to celebrate progress on their grounds development project
  • Worked alongside school architects to establish how best to integrate good quality grounds into their own projects.
  • Reflected on outdoor practice and provision with early years practitioners at a London Children’s Centre.
  • Explored the potential of school grounds, on a very rainy day, with children at a Liss school

These projects are just a tiny snapshot of what’s happening across the UK; in Scotland, Grounds for Learning have been supporting parents with outdoor play in the natural environment and Juliet Robinson has been blogging the crazy photographs her classes took of their school grounds using iPads.  In Northern Ireland, Kierna Corr’s nursery class enjoyed a wet but fiery Friday and in Wales, Learning through Landscapes have been working with the very young.

For my part, I visited ‘Middle Earth’ in the English Midlands: Featherstone Primary School, where part of their school field has been transformed with the help of Timotay Playscapes into a magical child-sized play environment.  I’d wanted to visit for a while, so the CPD trip to nearby Dudley provided the perfect excuse.  Headteacher Edris Gaibee welcomed me to the school and Early Years lead Helen Beach very kindly gave me a tour of the garden, named Dreamy Hollow.

The focus of the garden is a stunning ‘hobbit hole’ underground classroom, complete with circular door and very low ceilings!  Light floods in from a quirky lightwell – a cottage on the hill above.  The garden undulates and occupies its space with character and purpose, providing the whole school with myriad learning and play opportunities.  

Building work taking place adjacent to the early years classrooms means that their outdoor space is currently out of use, so Helen explained how they are managing to provide regular outdoor time for their youngest children by bringing them up in groups for lengthy periods of time in Dreamy Hollow.  Whilst there, children are able to explore dens and willow tunnels, look at picture books and hear stories in the story circle or in the hobbit hole, tend veggies in the allotment area, ride their bikes around the tricky gravel pathways allotment gardens or play freely on the lush grass or wildflower meadow above the hobbit hole.

Helen talked to me about the importance of child initiated play as well as adult supported experiences, and described how joyfully her young children explore, take risks, co-operate and communicate with one another when placed in this unconventional corner of the grounds.  At a recent seminar, early years pedagogue Jan White talked about the importance of ‘abundance’ and ‘generosity’ of materials in early years play spaces, and this garden certainly has eccentricity in abundance.  It will be fascinating to watch how it develops its character as a playspace in coming years as the natural elements (trees, willow, wildflowers) begin to take hold.

I loved the potential of the ‘mirror’ circle, the casual arrangement of railway sleepers for clambering and the rocks and stones that half-shield the hobbit hole (from Orcs, presumably).  There’s a richness of texture, tone and shape here, and (other than the bikes and trikes, which wouldn’t normally be here) most of the landscape, its features and the resources in it reflect the school’s intention to introduce more natural materials to children’s outdoor play and learning.

It’s unusual to see such an ambitious and such an obviously ‘designed’ landscape garden in a school, but this one reflects the needs of the children and staff and is clearly cared for and appreciated by all who use it.  Collaborating with Timotay meant the school was able to influence the design right from the start, understanding and accepting the maintenance implications and planning ahead for these.  For Helen, the only thing she’d change if they did the project again would be the surface of the path, which coupled with the hilly nature of the site, makes wheely toys very difficult to manoeuvre.  However, she recognises that the garden wasn’t designed with these toys in mind, and once the youngsters have their own early years space back, it won’t be an issue.

School is already exploring ideas for another grand playscape around the new early years unit and I plan to be back in a year or two to see how they get on.

Julie Mountain
Director, Play Learning Life CIC

Abruzzi Higher Secondary School, Pakistan celebrates International School Grounds Month

The village of Siankhor in the Shigar valley, sits on the road to Askoli, the starting point to treks in Pakistan's Karakorum mountain range. It is home to the Abruzzi Higher Secondary School.

Visit to learn about the history of the school and in particular its teaching garden.

This year they will be marking International School Grounds Month. Class 6 and 7 have been designing and planting fruit trees, vegetables, flowers and a compost bin in their allotted space in the garden. Their garden activity focuses on English and Math respectively.

Holkens förskola - getting outside for International School Grounds Month

Holkens forskola is a pre-school in Lund, Sweden who told us about their May activities!

During spring we have been talking and learning about the cycle of nature.  In may we´re going to construct a small garden where the children are going to plant flowers, potatoes and carrots.

We're also going to plant sweet peas in used milk cartons.

We have taken pictures of different animals and flowers that we have found in our preschool-ground. We have put the pictures in laminating-sheets and then we have put them in our preschool ground so all children and teachers can look at them.