FOSSconnect


May is Living Schoolyard Month!

Erica Beck Spencer, FOSS Curriculum Specialist, Lawrence Hall of Science
March 30, 2015 | FOSS Outdoors

Pockets of educators across the country are considering how to get children outside on a more regular basis. Often these groups of enthusiastic people are clustered in a school, parts of a district, or rarely, a whole city (such as Boston). In the summer of 2014, in an unprecedented level of support, the state of California passed Resolution ACR-128: Living Schoolyard Month. Essentially this resolution serves as a public endorsement for school gardens and green schoolyards. San Francisco Assemblymember Phil Ting sponsored the resolution, with support from Green Schoolyards America and Education Outside. It asks school districts and county offices of education in California to create more student-accessible green space on school grounds. It also declares the month of May as "Living Schoolyard Month." Sharon Danks, the author of Asphalt to Ecosystems, and the head of the non-profit, Green Schoolyards America, says, "...the California government is encouraging schools across the state to bring students of all ages outdoors in May, and throughout the school year. I hope schools will be inspired by the government's powerful statement and use it to bring their students outside more often for a wide variety of learning, play and ecology-related activities."

Student collecting data

To support this resolution, Green Schoolyards America is producing a Living Schoolyards Month Activity Guide that will be available online this spring for all educators to use for free. You can find it at www.greenschoolyardsamerica.org when it is released in March 2015. The guide will include a contribution from FOSS, a much-abbreviated version of Seed Dispersal that is now a part of the Structures of Life Module and is also an Outdoor Biology Instructional Strategies (OBIS) activity (www.outdoorbiology.com). The guide will have activities featured from outdoor educators and institutions from around the state and although it has been produced for California, it is available for all. Even more outdoor activities can be found in the guide produced by the International School Grounds Alliance available at www.internationalschoolgrounds.org.

Sharon Danks also shared with us that she hopes "a strong, positive response from schools and organizations across the state will persuade the state government to follow this resolution with more comprehensive legislation that funds living schoolyard design, construction, management and training, in the future."

For those of you who do not live in California, this movement to connect learning to the schoolyard is occurring across the country. Many states have created Environmental Literacy Plans (ELPs) that have been adopted by state legislatures. The majority of these plans reference schoolyards and formal education. The language in these ELPs might be useful when writing grants to improve schoolyards. You may find yours by visiting your state's Environmental Education Association website; if you can't find it there, then search on your state's Department of Education website.

For all those California educators using the FOSS Third Edition or Next Generation Edition, just follow the Investigations Guide as it is written—you'll be going outside soon, as regular outings to the schoolyard are woven into our program. However you get outside, if it is through the use of FOSS or finding inspiration in the 40 outdoor explorations within the Living Schoolyards Month Activity Guide, we hope you and your students take a moment to take a deep breath of fresh outdoor air and open your eyes to the wonders of the natural world. Congratulations California, we hope you are the first of many to pass legislation like this!

Illustration of plants and plant markers