School yards: landscaping, shading, depressurization

Schoolyards are being re-planned more and more often. They are designed to encourage movement, provide an opportunity to rest and bring children closer to nature.




Joachim Hores

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“The children always said that playing in the school yard feels like the street because of the heavy traffic around the school,” says principal Viola Schoeneberg, adding, “The new fence makes it nicer, there is finally privacy. screen, there are places to retreat, and we do something about exhaust fumes and noise.’ It is about the schoolyard of the primary school of Christoph-Wilhelm-Hufeland in Bad Langensalz, Thuringia. It has been transformed into a green oasis for 110 school children, with flowering insect lawns, a school vegetable garden, a flower bed, an insect hotel and a barefoot path. New playground equipment has recently been added. The redesign was made possible by a €30,000 award from the “Ten Green Schoolyards for Thuringia” competition from the Land of Thuringia and German Environmental Aid. “It’s a lot of money for us, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to afford it. We worked a lot with the kids during planning and implementation, and we learned a lot,” says Schöneberg.

The prize is designed to reward schools that think about how they can turn asphalt deserts with little greenery and worn playground equipment into climatic places that encourage physical activity and offer peace and relaxation. A task that is becoming increasingly important given the growing heat stress in the summer. Greening, shading, depressurization is the motto of the competition for the best green schoolyards in Thuringia, a competition that Deutsche Umwelthilfe also organizes in cooperation with the relevant ministries of Hesse, Brandenburg and North Rhine-Westphalia.

The campaign of the German organization for the protection of children and youth “Dreams of schoolyards” also supports the natural redevelopment of school outdoor areas with 100,000 euros per year. In 2020, Grambke Elementary School in Bremen won the third prize of €5,000 for its sensory garden concept on the school grounds. Implementation has just ended. In the open space between the school pavilions, there have long been eight beds in wooden boxes filled with strawberries, kohlrabi, peas and lettuce. Separate classes are responsible for planting, they also take care of watering, weeding, harvesting and recycling. A new composting plant is not far away. “We have to teach the little ones how to water the plants without drowning them,” reports Vice President Dirk Ostendorf. He estimates that about 30 percent of the roughly 200 girls and boys have some experience gardening at home.

Touch, smell, taste, balance and hearing should be stimulated in a sensory garden. You can jump from tree trunk to tree trunk, walk on stones, seclude yourself in a teepee, rub and smell herbs, and process them into food. “It should increase the appreciation of food,” Ostendorf hopes. A water feature is planned, and a large xylophone will also be installed. Nearby, there is a place for a green classroom under the open sky – four tables with benches around them allow classes to be held outside in good weather.

“It looks nice here and it’s quieter than the school yard, I like it,” says Alice. “We take our class to the sensory garden once a week, I wish I could come more often,” Lucas says. Jonathan adds: “It’s fun to meet new flowers. I also learned how to plant strawberries, pumpkins and beans.” For Ostendorf, the once-unused outdoor space is ideal for doing projects or organizing hands-on science lessons: “Kids have a better understanding of the biological cycle of planting, harvesting and composting. , when they not only hear about plants, but can also touch them.”

The German organization for the protection of children and young people decides on the awarding of awards based on various criteria. This includes, among others, the diversity of the stimulation of the planned new areas in the school yard (rest, communication, promotion of movement, suitability as a meeting place and providing opportunities for recreation), the nature and design of the room (use of natural materials instead of concrete, metal, plastic, depending on the situation).Selection of native plants suitable for the location), ecology and sustainability (use of renewable raw materials, removal of solid floor covering for more drainage areas), and designability (students should be able to change rooms). Age-appropriate layout of individual rooms and promotion of exercise and recreation, including through natural areas suitable for climbing, running, jumping, jumping and locomotion, are also evaluated.

Bernd Merten from Hude in Lower Saxony designs and manufactures swings, merry-go-rounds and swing equipment for, among other things, kindergartens, schools and public spaces. Since 2019, the Platjenwerbe elementary school in Ritterhude has had a 2.50 meter high play tower in the schoolyard, which children can reach with a ladder, rope or climbing wall. Downhill. “Long slides are still popular with children,” says Bernd Merten. As for the material, it relies primarily on robinia wood, which is more expensive than other types of wood, but also lasts longer.

In addition to the play tower, Merten also installed nest swings for the schoolyard in Ritterhude, although not with complete confidence: “Many children can no longer swing and really move, because instead of round swings there are often only nest swings. A simple sweep is important for the development of motor skills. It doesn’t always have to be the most modern and the most expensive.”

This post was first published in:
Klett thematic service No. 107 (06/2022)

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