Schoolyards Count! Be Part of an Important Research Project

Does your schoolyard promote activity, learning, and nature? Be part of our check-up on the health of Ontario’s school grounds.

Schoolyard quality is an important part of children’s social, emotional, and academic well-being.  Research clearly shows better quality schoolyards increase the chance students are physically active, and contributes to environmental awareness.

Schoolyards that contain ample “green space,” natural and built play structures, and opportunities for learning about nature are also a critical resource to support students in building positive relationships and maintain long-term health.

Time outdoors on the playground is often one of the main points in the school day for unstructured play. Leading experts in child development have identified this type of play as critical for the development of social-emotional skills and positive relationships.

Access to green outdoor space is so important that time spent playing outdoors influences children’s stress hormone, cortisol. Access to outdoor play encourages problem solving, experiential learning, and opportunities for co-operation. Even walking outdoors and collecting leaves or other objects found in loose parts kits decreases children’s stress at a hormonal level. In addition to the abundant physical and social benefits of outdoor play, green space has been linked to decreased risk in developing mental health issues, a buffer extending into adulthood.

HOW YOU CAN HELP US HELP ONTARIO’S YOUTH

So how do Ontario schoolyards measure up? How can we promote the well-being of young students through their schoolyard?  We’re asking you to help us by participating in a citizen-science project to get school communities assessing their own schoolyards – and share the information to create a comprehensive picture of schoolyard quality.

 The tool we are using was validated in England.  Schools that performed well on the tool had more active children.  By completing the audit, we help build awareness of the assets – and shortcomings -- of our own schoolyard while we can figure out whether there is significant variation – or inequality in schoolyard quality.

It takes less than an hour. Everything you need to complete the audit is available online or for download at www.ophea.net/schoolyardscount or (in French) www.ophea.net/fr/prioritécoursdécole

Taylor Benoit, Masters Candidate, Psychology, and Kelly Gallagher-Mackay, Assistant Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University

David Tranter