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Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation

by Sharon Gamson Danks New Village Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 288 pages
AU$89.00 NZ$93.04
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Case Studies from North America, Scandinavia, Japan, and Great Britain demonstrate natural outdoor teaching environment that support hand-on learning in science, math, language, and art in ways that nurture healthy imagination and socialization 
Asphalt to Ecosystems is a compelling color guidebook for designing and building natural schoolyard environments that enhance childhood learning and play experiences while providing connection with the natural world. With this book, Danks broadens our notion of what a well-designed schoolyard should be, taking readers on a journey from traditional, ordinary grassy fields and asphalt, to explore the vibrant and growing movement to "green" school grounds in the United States and around the world. This book documents exciting green schoolyard examples from almost 150 schools in 11 countries, illustrating that a great many things are possible on school grounds when they are envisioned as outdoor classrooms for hands-on learning and play. The book's 500 vivid, color photographs showcase some of the world's most innovative green schoolyards including: edible gardens with fruit trees, vegetables, chickens, honey bees, and outdoor cooking facilities; wildlife 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 that power landscape features, or the whole school; waste-as-a-resource projects that give new life to old materials in beautiful ways; K-12 curriculum connections for a wide range of disciplines from science and math to art and social studies; creative play opportunities that diversify school ground recreational options and encourage children to run, hop, skip, jump, balance, slide, and twirl, as well as explore the natural world first hand. The book grounds these examples in a practical framework that illustrates simple landscape design choices that all schools can use to make their schoolyards more comfortable, enjoyable and beautiful, and describes a participatory design process that schools can use to engage their school communities in transforming their own asphalt into ecosystems.

Foreword by Cam CollyerPrefacePART 1 Getting From Here to There1 Why Transform Traditional Schoolyards?2 Project Launch: Designing Your Dream Schoolyard and Building the School Community to Make It Happen3 Design Guidelines for Ecological SchoolyardsPART 2 Ecological Teaching Tools in the Schoolyard4 Schoolyard Wildlife Sanctuaries5 Schoolyard Water Systems6 School Energy Systems7 Schoolyard Agriculture8 Ecologically-Sensitive Materials for Schoolyard Landscapes9 Lessons from the Landscape: Weaving Teaching Resources into Schoolyard DesignPART 3 Creating a Diversified Play Environment in an Ecological Schoolyard10 Active Play in an Ecological Schoolyard11 Creative Play on School Grounds12 Outdoor Art & Music Play in an Ecological SchoolyardPART 4 Shaping Schoolyard Infrastructure to Create Comfortable, Effective and Memorable Places13 Comfortable Schoolyards: Seating, Microclimates, and Protection from the Elements14 Form and Function: Key Design Considerations for Well-Organized Green Schoolyards15 Artful Schoolyards: Creating a Unique Sense of Place through ArtPART 5 Putting Ideas into Action16 Sustaining Ecological Schoolyards17 Ecological Schoolyards: From Grey to GreenAppendicesResources to Help Transform Your "Asphalt to Ecosystems"Referenced WorksEndnotesAcknowledgementsSubject IndexIndex of Places Mentioned in the BookAbout the AuthorAbout New Village Press

Press Reviews"I have often seen children's sense of wonder awaken as they find life teeming in a handful of soil or nurture a seed into a healthy plant to be harvested and enjoyed in a delicious meal with their classmates. Sharon Danks’ Asphalt to Ecosystems is a wonderful introduction to the design ideas that can transform a traditional schoolyard into a place where such vital learning can occur, under the wise and skillful guidance of the growing movement of educators dedicated to education for sustainable living."—Zenobia Barlow, Cofounder and Executive Director, The Center for Ecoliteracy"Asphalt to Ecosystems reflects the author’s passion for the topic and presents more than a decade of innovative practice interwoven with extensive international field investigation. The carefully crafted text, profusely illustrated with closely observed examples, convincingly demonstrates how ecologically rich environments can serve the triumvirate of children’s play, learning, and education—and the good health of both children and planet. This inspiring book brings together and builds on the work of long time pioneers who share author Sharon Danks’ vision. Those pursuing the same mission are offered an exceptionally valuable tool and a new benchmark of design for educating a new eco-literate generation."—Robin Moore, MCP, Director, The Natural Learning Initiative, North Carolina State University. Co-author, Natural Learning: The Life History of an Environmental Schoolyard"Danks’ book exemplifies planning's comprehensive approach to design and community engagement. She demonstrates that sustainability goes well beyond green technologies—encompassing the patterns of place and envisioning schools and schoolyards as centers of community."—Jeffrey L. Soule, FAICP, Director of Outreach and International Programs, American Planning Association"This is a beautiful book, loaded with compassion for children and deep understanding of the learning process. It is not just a primer on ecological landscaping in the curriculum, but a blueprint for a greener and smarter curriculum."—David W. Orr, Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics, Oberlin College, author, Ecological Literacy and Hope Is an Imperative"A groundbreaking and informative book with examples from around the world that will inspire others to create green engaging environments for their children. To educate the next generation of earth stewards we need to immerse them in settings where an ecological viewpoint becomes second nature. Sharon Danks shows us the way."—Clare Cooper Marcus, Professor Emerita, Departments of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, University of California, Berkeley. Co-author, Healing Gardens“Danks encourages teachers to take their students on field trips to their own schoolyards.”—Amanda Marrazzo, Chicago Tribune“’s a delightful book; meticulously researched, beautifully illustrated with full-colour photographs, combining persuasive arguments for change with a clear, accessible, writing style…. We would recommend this book to any school – primary and secondary – or PTA with an interest in taking learning outdoors, becoming ‘greener’ or providing richer play experiences. It’s also an invaluable text for designers and planners, offering guidance on materials, planting and sustainability, based on real-life, successful examples in a wide range of different school contexts.”—Julie Mountain, Operations Director of Learning Through Landscapes“Wow! I wish this book had been around years ago when I first got involved with my local school's outdoor classroom… It gives guidelines for building everything from wildlife sanctuaries and edible gardens to sustainable energy and water systems, and offers ideas for encouraging creative play and connecting curriculum. Great photos illustrate how children interact with the natural world, art and academics in the outdoor classroom. This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to transform -- or continue transforming -- their schoolyard, park or outdoor community space. It will cause you to look at your children's or student's play space with brand new eyes... and that's a very good thing. Every school administrator and park official should have a copy of this inspiring manual on her desk.”—Anna Nagro, Founder of GardenABCs"Parents, teachers, school administrators, and community planners will all find this book both helpful and revealing; children will find the results magical."—Marlene Y. Satter, Foreword Reviews"Asphalt to Ecosystems does a great job targeting its audience: teachers, students, and community activists. It is heavy on practical advice and detailed examples while being light on theory. Danks recognizes that some of the greatest challenges to such innovative playgrounds are liability legislation and a general fear of the unknown. Therefore, this book lays out a framework for change and supplements it with ample global examples. It is as much a call-to-action as an expose of works, and most definitely a wonderful addition to any elementary school library."—Kevin J. Zhang, Re:place Magazine"As I was reading this book I realized I wanted to buy boxes of it and send copies off to all officials involved in education at the national and state level—it is that good."—Deborah Dalton, Landscape Architecture Magazine"The book could have shown a great idea possible only in a perfect world, but beautiful photography, lists of resources, and a chapter on infrastructure combine to make the reader want to organize action teams and hold fundraisers. This book is an inspirational handbook for everyone: landscape architect, PTO representative, teacher, parent. I finished the book feeling like I had the answer for the phenomenon Richard Louv’s identified as Nature Deficit Disorder. It will inspire anyone with vision who also believes that our future relies on reconnecting our children to our planet and plugging them into the natural world around them."—Trevor Smith, Ecological Landscape Association"Hands down, this is absolutely the most comprehensive book about greening schoolyards that I have seen, and I’ve seen most of them. The author’s work involves photos from unbelievable green spaces from 11 countries around the world and spans a decade of research. If you have an inkling of desire to do some greening projects in a schoolyard or are looking for inspiration for yourself or others, this book provides all the information you need, along with saving you time and money. It is loaded with gorgeous photos of students working and learning outdoors in spaces that are now teeming with life but were once barren asphalt."—Erica Beck Spencer, FOSS Newsletter"The book is filled with examples that show that many things are possible on school sites, and supports that idea with approximately 500 colorful photographs from roughly 150 schools in 11 countries."—Sustainable Communities Online"Who ever thought that schoolyards could be so much fun and enriching for everyone in the community? All it takes is ongoing community support and involvement at every stage of site-specific planning, funding, construction and maintenance. “Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation” is more than an idea book; it will help inspire and guide change."—Jeanne Santangelo, Marinscope Community Newspaper"Sharon Danks, author of Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation, shares a vision of creating outdoor learning spaces as places of beauty and inspiration for natural interactions."—"There is great advice here and lots of inspiration."—Connect Magazine"This book is an important addition to the growing body of literature on green schoolyard transformation, and is a must-have for school district libraries as well as an asset for all schools."—Green Teacher Magazine"Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation is a call for schoolyards to transform their unused grassland and asphalt yards into something more useful and educational."—The Midwest Book Review"We would recommend this book to any school - primary and secondary - or PTA with an interest in taking learning outdoors, becoming 'greener' or providing richer play experiences. It's also an invaluable text for designers and planners, offering guidance on materials, planting and sustainability, based on real-life, successful examples in a wide range of different school contexts."—Learning through Landscapes"Sharon's book is highly unique and lovingly written. In additon to being well organized, it offers marvelous pictures that greatly add to this insightful and extremely useful guide. I highly recommend this book to anyone involved in improving our local schools and also those wanting to get involved."—Doug Pushard,"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."—School Garden Weekly"Asphalt to Ecosystems is a compelling color guidebook for designing and building natural schoolyard environments that enhance childhood learning and play experiences while providing connection with the natural world."—Michael Levenston, City Farmer News"The essential guidebook for communities who are concerned for the future of their children comes to us from our friends at New Village Press. “Asphalt to Ecosystems” by Sharon Danks provides designers, educators, parents and communities with useful information for transforming a school’s uninviting, unimaginative hardscaped areas into healthy, positive learning environments."—enVisionGreen"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."—CLEARING Journal"Parents should read this book. Schools should read this book. Maybe some of these ideas can be put to work at your own local school. Or, just maybe, some families could institute these or similar ideas at home."—Gray Hunter, Therefore"This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to transform -- or continue transforming -- their schoolyard, park or outdoor community space. It will cause you to look at your children's or student's play space with brand new eyes... and that's a very good thing."—Anne Nagro, GardenABCs"Asphalt to Ecosystems belongs on every school superintendent’s and every state board of education director’s desk so that all children can have the chance to experience learning and playing in dynamic, living environments that inspire them to life-long stewardship."—Illène Pevec, Children, Youth and Environments"This is the third year for TLN Blog book recommendations, and I have a couple of new ones to add to the list. The first is Sharon Danks' Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation. Although this book is not so much geared to home gardeners, it's so inspiring that it deserves a place on this list. It’s a beautifully illustrated guide for turning the traditional school ground’s slab of asphalt into edible gardens, wildlife habitats, and vibrant creative spaces."—Naomi Sachs, Therapeutic Landscapes Network"Danks’ book builds looks at the big picture for making a case for school gardens, but then moves into the practical with how to design, build and maintain school gardens on an ongoing basis."—Bill Orr, CHPS Executive Director, CHPS"With over 500 colour photos, a useful bibliography and list of internet resources, I will want to reach for this book time and again."—Sarah Milliken, Garden Design Journal"From the traditional blacktop and grass fields of most schoolyards, the book describes how playgrounds transform into spaces for growing food and plants, allowing for wildlife, birds and insects, and offering equipment that encourages creativity and collaborative play. The old design only encouraged competition, which often deviated into bullying, but the new design facilitates role-playing, storytelling, and stewardship of the land."—Penny Peck, ACL BayNews
Sharon Gamson Danks is an environmental planner and founding partner of Bay Tree Design, inc. in Berkeley, California,