What are ecological schoolyards?

Ecological schoolyards are outdoor learning environments that teach ecological principles through the design of the schoolyard landscape. They can substantially improve the appearance of school grounds while creating hands-on resources that allow teachers to lead exciting "fieldtrips" without ever leaving school property.

Bay Tree Design, inc. specializes in EcoSchool Design®. We assist school communities, and those who care about them, in transforming paved schoolyards into vibrant ecosystems for outdoor learning and play. For more information about Bay Tree Design, inc.'s services, please see www.baytreedesign.com.


© Sharon Danks 2002. All images and text on this website are the property of Sharon Danks. All rights reserved. Please contact Sharon Danks to request permission to use this material in any way. Thank you. sharon@ecoschools.com


September 16-18, 2011 in Berkeley & San Francisco, California, USA

The green schoolyard movement is growing rapidly and flourishing around the world.  Schools near and far are reimagining their grounds, replacing their extensive paved surfaces with a vibrant mosaic of outdoor learning and play opportunities. Schools in many different countries are leaders in this field, finding innovative ways to weave curricula into their landscapes, diversify their recreational offerings, enhance their local ecology, and reflect their unique location and cultural context.

Please join us! Come to the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area to join us for the first International Green Schoolyard Conference held in the United States. Invited visionary leaders of the school ground movement from Europe, North America, and Japan will share their experiences, case studies, and best practices. Participate in this exciting conference to hear about cutting edge schoolyards and school gardens, meet like-minded colleagues from the United States and abroad, share ideas, tour fantastic local school grounds, and get inspired to bring these ideas back to your own community.

Our firm, Bay Tree Design, inc., is co-hosting this conference along with the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance and New Village Press/ADPSR.

For more information and to enroll now, please visit the conference's website: www.greenschoolyards.org



Announcing an exciting new book by Bay Tree Design, inc. principal, Sharon Gamson Danks!

Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation (New Village Press, November 2010)

Asphalt to Ecosystems book coverNew Village Press (newvillagepress.net) announces the November 2010 publication date of Sharon Gamson Danks’ Asphalt to Ecosystems (asphalt2ecosystems.org), an illuminating guidebook for designing and building creative, ecologically diverse schoolyards and integrating nature into learning and play activities across K-12 curricula. With a wealth of practical advice and over 500 color photographs, Sharon Danks offers a fully illustrated, easy-to-understand guide for transforming the traditional school ground’s slab of asphalt into edible gardens, wildlife habitats, and other sustainable uses.

Using real-life examples from over 150 schools in 11 countries, Danks takes readers on a tour of successful green schoolyards emerging from vastly different climates and sensibilities: a permaculture project with fruit trees, vegetables, chickens, an apiary, and outdoor cooking facilities; wilderness habitats with prairie grasses and ponds, or forest and desert ecosystems; schoolyard watershed models, rainwater catchment systems and waste-water treatment wetlands; renewable energy systems; and waste-as-a-resource projects that give new life to old materials in beautiful ways.

Along the way, Danks includes K-12 curriculum ideas offering creative connections to a wide range of disciplines from the sciences to the humanities, evincing the many benefits and applications of designing and building green schoolyards: experiential learning opportunities that deepen students’ understanding of abstract concepts; play-based solutions to the problem of childhood obesity; and opportunities for social and emotional development through the cooperative, problem-solving activities involved in both the participatory design process and the maintenance of the green space. The book’s abundant illustrations and stories show readers how ecological schoolyards can improve students’ classroom performance, increase self-esteem, better lifestyle practices, and instill in young students a much-needed sense of environmental stewardship.

With this handbook to guide the planning, design, and implementation process, educators, parents, students, designers, and environmental activists will see the potential for redesigning under-utilized schoolyard spaces to cultivate richer learning and play experiences.

A frontrunner in the green schoolyards movement, Sharon Danks is an environmental planner and a founding partner of Berkeley, California-based landscape architecture and planning firm, Bay Tree Design, inc. Danks has visited and documented more than 200 green schoolyards and parks in North America, Scandinavia, Europe, and Japan, and has facilitated the master-planning for dozens of ecological schoolyards.

For more information about the book and to purchase it online, please visit www.asphalt2ecosystems.org


Sustainable Schoolyard Exhibit

We invite you to visit the website for one of our projects: the Sustainable Schoolyard exhibit, part of the One Planet-Ours exhibition at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, DC, May 24-October 13, 2008. Bay Tree Design, inc. designed this exhibit and developed its conceptual framework. The exhibit was produced with the help of a team of national organizations. Please visit the project's website for more information, www.sustainableschoolyard.org.


Green Schoolyard Resource Directory for the San Francisco Bay Area, written by Sharon Danks and Tamar Cooper, on behalf of the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance and San Francisco Unified School District.

This guidebook is for schools, parents, teachers, students, designers, and community members in San Francisco and around the Bay Area. It is filled with ideas, resources, and contacts to help you expand your green schoolyard, and make your plans a reality!

Click here to download a free copy of this directory (1 Mb)

Or contact info@sfgreenschools.org to order a printed copy.


Click here to read about the 2010 Green School Grounds Conference, organized by the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance.

Click here to read about the 2004 Green School Grounds Conference, organized by the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance.