Engaging Our Grounds: First International Conference on Schoolyard Transformation in United States

Announcing: Engaging Our Grounds

Conference: September 16–18, 2011, Berkeley & San Francisco, California

We want to recommend an inspiring, upcoming conference, a delightful colleague and the great book that she has written.  Sharon Gamson Danks is the author of the widely acclaimed book, Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Trans­for­mation (New Village Press, 2010).  Sharon is an environmental planner and founding partner of Bay Tree Design in Berkeley, CA.  As a researcher, writer and hands-on designer and planner, she has visited and documented over 200 green schoolyard and park projects in North America, Europe, Great Britain, and Japan and has helped over three dozen schools transform their grounds into vibrant ecosystems for learning and play.

Ashley and I met Sharon a number of years ago when my sister-in-law, Susan Boyd, of Sustainable Communities online introduced us.  Sharon guided the three of us on an extensive tour of public school gardens in Berkeley, California and we were inspired by the work of students, teachers and parents all over the city.  Sharon's beautiful and practical book was published last year and we recommend it to every school and all teachers with whom we work.  It is a terrific resource no matter what stage of this process you are involved in.

In two weeks, Sharon and a host of other international experts are offering the first international conference on this subject to take place in the United States.  This conference is co-hosted by Bay Tree Design, inc., the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance, and Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility.  We have told everyone we know about it.

Invited visionary leaders of the school ground movement from Canada, England, Germany, Japan and Sweden will share their experiences, case studies, and best practices. Speakers include:

-  Dr. Petter Åkerblom, Movium & Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (Uppsala, Sweden)

-  Cam Collyer, Evergreen (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

-  Manfred Dietzen, Grün macht Schule (Berlin, Germany)

-  Mary Jackson and Julie Mountain, Learning through Landscapes (Winchester, England)

-  Dr. Ko Senda, Environment Design Institute (Tokyo, Japan)

-  Bernard Spiegal, Playlink (London, England)

-  Birgit Teichmann, Teichmann Landschafts Architekten (Berlin, Germany)

The conference’s schoolyard tours include four schoolyards in San Francisco where during the last decade schools have transformed their traditional, paved, urban schoolyards into a vibrant outdoor learning and play spaces.  Also included are three inspiring sites in Berkeley: The Edible Schoolyard; the City of Berkeley’s Adventure Playground; and an elementary school with a green schoolyard created by the school community.

To learn more about the conference visit the conference website.  We imagine that attending this conference will feel as though you have walked right into Sharon's book and it has come alive!