APA Celebrates Outdoor Classroom on the Hill

D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells presides over the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Outdoor Classroom. Photo by Richard Luka

On November 12, 2008, American Planning Association staff participated in a ribbon cutting ceremony to unveil Brent Elementary School's "Outdoor Classroom" in Washington, D.C. The Outdoor Classroom is the final home of the U.S. Botanic Garden's Sustainable Schoolyard exhibit, which APA helped design and construct.

Photo: D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells presides over the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Outdoor Classroom. Photo by Richard Lukas

The Outdoor Classroom will continue to educate students and Capitol Hill residents about green practices and active living. Brent coordinator Heidi Johnson noted that the Sustainable Schoolyard "is a major part of an outdoor transformation at Brent to improve our community for present and future generations."

Photo: Children celebrate and play in the Outdoor Classroom, once part of the Sustainable Schoolyard exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden. Photo by Richard Lukas

Children celebrate and play in the Outdoor Classroom, once part of the Sustainable Schoolyard exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden. Photo by Richard Lukas

For information about Brent Elementary School, a Museum Magnet school, visit http://brentelementary.org.

History of the Sustainable Schoolyard Exhibit

May 24–October 13, 2008
U.S. Botanic Garden,
Washington, D.C.

What better place for learning than the schoolyard? See how green schoolyards can lead to active, green, and livable communities in the Sustainable Schoolyard exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden this summer. APA, along with a network of partners, is presenting the exhibit to illustrate the connection between a community's design and the health and well-being of its residents — using schoolyards as the starting point.

Throughout the exhibit, visitors will learn about:

  • Locating key destinations such as schools within walking or biking distance;
  • Incorporating elements such as pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, parks, and plazas for gathering; and
  • Maintaining open and natural spaces for exercise, exploration, and relaxation.
  • Elements on display in the exhibit are present in schoolyards across the country and can easily be replicated. Displays include edible gardens, energy and water systems, solar technologies, wildlife habitat gardens, and green building materials.

Sustainable Schoolyard is part of the U.S. Botanic Garden's larger exhibit One Planet — Ours.  Special events including a panel discussion about greening schoolyards will be held throughout the summer.  To view the exhibition One Planet — Ours, visit: www.usbg.gov/education/events/One-Planet-Ours.cfm.

How Does a Sustainable Schoolyard Relate to Planning?

While a schoolyard is only one part of a community, it connects to a wide range of issues related to planning including the relationship between planning and public health, schools as the "centers of their communities," and planning active communities and green communities.

Sustainable schoolyards provide schoolchildren with a healthy, dynamic, learning environment. A well-designed, green schoolyard can serve the wider community as well, by allowing nearby residents to walk, run, and bike to it as a valued, recreational resource. Planning that encourages the integration of schools as the centers of their communities helps create safer, more pedestrian/bike-friendly, and accessible routes to schools. In turn, more walkable and bikable destinations open up in the surrounding neighborhood.

This idea is closely connected to APA's coalition member support of the "Complete Streets" movement. Forming active communities ripples positive social, economic, and environmental effects into local businesses and residential life. Schools and their surrounding campuses hold the potential to be a viable tool in that process.

APA Leadership Helps Kick Off Exhibition

On June 11, 2008, Carol A. Rhea, AICP, of the APA Board of Directors, Region II, and APA staff participated in the opening reception for "Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet," featured at the Botanic Garden. During the event, Rhea met with Holly Shimizu, executive director of the U.S. Botanic Garden, to underscore APA's commitment to working with the federal government on innovative educational efforts such as this exhibition.

APA is part of the Friends of Smart Growth and Sustainable Communities presenting Sustainable Schoolyard. Other participating organizations include: American Farmland Trust; Concern, Inc.; National Association of Counties; National Association of Realtors; The Conservation Fund; The Cloud Institute for Sustainability Education; and The Smart Growth Network.

Learn more at www.sustainableschoolyard.org.