Since 2002, the School Ground Greening Coalition (SGGC) has been working with local schools to bring nature to school grounds, where many children spend the majority of their unstructured outdoor play time. Following the models (and resources) provided by school ground greening movements in the UK and Canada, we decided to launch a greening effort here in the greater Portland area. Our first greening projects involved building trails in wooded areas at two elementary school-community. Since then, we have worked with hundreds of students, teachers, administrators, parents and community members on greening projects at nearly thirty schools in the greater Portland area.
The projects have been developed based on a service-learning model, encouraging teachers to involve students in a collaborative decision-making process that connects projects to classroom learning. Active citizenship and collaboration are important elements of Maine’s educational standards. We also help connect the projects to state standards/learning requirements as much as possible, since teachers are already expected to cover these curriculum areas. There are many connections that can be made to outdoor learning.
The main focus of the greening projects has been to bring nature into the school grounds and to plant or build whatever is needed to support children’s play and learning time outdoors in as natural an environment as possible. The projects include: trails, gardens (butterfly, sensory, food, habitat, etc.), trees, bushes, flowers and plants of all kinds, “outdoor classroom” structures with roofs, benches and any other features to facilitate outdoor learning: boulders, stumps, amphitheaters, pergolas, hills, grass, man-made water features, dry stream beds, ponds, vernal pools, bridges, play features made of natural elements, and more.
Please visit our SGGC Flickr site to see photos of our school projects throughout Greater Portland, as well as photos grouped by design idea (play elements, outdoor classrooms, benches, etc.).