A global network of organizations and professionals working to enrich children’s learning and play by improving the way school grounds are designed and used.
The non-profit ISGA is a global network of organizations working to enrich children’s learning and play through improving the way school grounds are designed, managed, resourced and used.
The wellbeing of children and the ecological diversity of their learning landscapes are intrinsically linked and the ISGA aims to support all schools, wherever they are located and whatever the age of children in them, in making the most of the opportunities excellent school grounds afford.
The international school grounds movement is growing rapidly and flourishing in many places. Schools near and far are reimagining their grounds, replacing extensive paved surfaces with a vibrant mosaic of outdoor learning and play opportunities. Schools in dozens of countries are leading the way, finding innovative approaches that weave learning into their landscapes, diversify their recreational offerings, enhance their local ecology, and reflect their unique location and cultural context.
“Children around the world, growing up in very different environments and cultural settings, all need engaging childhood learning and play experiences for healthy development and enjoyment. The ISGA is not only a resource, but is also a call to action for teachers, parents, and students to go outside, improve their school grounds and explore the world first-hand.”
ISGA co-founder Sharon Danks of Green Schoolyards America.
School grounds are crucial childhood landscapes, both in terms of the considerable time spent there and the messages to children (both explicit and implicit) that come from their design and care. They are located in almost every neighborhood, town and city around the world, and often act as important community gathering places in addition to their roles as places of learning and play during the school day. For many children, school grounds are the primary place they play outside—so what they experience there resonates with them and helps to shape who they are.
“In this rapidly urbanizing century, there has been a substantial erosion of children's outdoor time both for play and learning in the space of a single generation. The reasons for this decline - as well as the negative repercussions - are numerous. With ISGA we want to address these issues and reverse the trend.”
ISGA co-founder Cam Collyer of Evergreen in Canada.
In today’s world, children’s opportunities for outdoor learning and play in nature are disappearing around the globe, due to a variety of influences that include:
cities that are poorly designed for both children and natural systems
over-programmed childhoods that leave children with little free time
powerful parental fears of "stranger danger" and an increasing fear of risk and liability
school grounds that are barren expanses with little to support children’s play and learning
“As research from around the world tells us, learning and play outside can have a truly positive impact on our children. Their results improve, they concentrate more in lessons, they develop their interpersonal and social skills and have improved mental and physical health. Already many schools around the world are seeing this is true as they develop and use their grounds for the benefit of children, but there is still a long way to go and we want to be able to share lessons learned with schools across the globe. The ISGA is a great way of sharing these lessons.”
ISGA co-founder Mary Jackson of Learning through Landscapes in the United Kingdom
The ISGA was formed as a result of the Engaging Our Grounds: International Green Schoolyards Conference, in Fall 2011.
Our three co-founders, Cam Collyer (Evergreen, Canada), Sharon Danks (Green Schoolyards, USA) and Mary Jackson (Learning through Landscapes, UK) had a history of collaboration and wanted to drive changed share good practice beyond their own national borders.
The ISGA believes that school grounds should:
provide powerful opportunities for hands-on learning
nurture students' physical, social and emotional development and wellbeing
reflect and embrace their local ecological, social and cultural context
embrace risk-taking as an essential component of learning and child development
be open public spaces, accessible to their communities.
The ISGA does this by:
focusing on the way school grounds are used, designed and managed
facilitating a dialogue about innovative research, design, education and policy
fostering partnerships between professionals and organizations across the globe
organizing international conferences, gatherings and other programs
advocating for student and school community participation in the design, construction and stewardship of school grounds
promoting the value of enriched school grounds as uniquely positioned, engaging environments for children.