Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation

New Village Press has published Sharon Gamson Danks’ Asphalt to Ecosystems, an illuminating guidebook for designing and building creative, ecologically diverse schoolyards and integrating nature into learning and play activities across K-12 curricula. With a wealth of practical advice and over 500 color photographs, Sharon Danks offers a fully illustrated, easy-to-understand guide for transforming the traditional school ground’s slab of asphalt into edible gardens, wildlife habitats, and other sustainable uses.

Using real-life examples from over 150 schools in 11 countries, Danks takes readers on a tour of successful green schoolyards emerging from vastly different climates and sensibilities: a permaculture project with fruit trees, vegetables, chickens, an apiary, and outdoor cooking facilities; wilderness 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; and waste-as-a-resource projects that give new life to old materials in beautiful ways.

Along the way, Danks includes K-12 curriculum ideas offering creative connections to a wide range of disciplines from the sciences to the humanities, evincing the many benefits and applications of designing and building green schoolyards: experiential learning opportunities that deepen students’ understanding of abstract concepts; play-based solutions to the problem of childhood obesity; and opportunities for social and emotional development through the cooperative, problem-solving activities involved in both the participatory design process and the maintenance of the green space.

The book’s abundant illustrations and stories show readers  how ecological schoolyards can improve students’ classroom performance, increase selfesteem, better lifestyle practices, and instill in young students a much-needed sense of environmental stewardship.

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.

About the Author
Sharon Gamson Danks is an environmental planner and the founding partner of Bay Tree Design, a Berkeley-based landscape architecture and planning firm. A frontrunner in the green schoolyards movement, Danks has visited and documented more than 200 green schoolyards and parks in North America, Scandinavia, Great Britain, Europe, and Japan, and has facilitated the master-planning for dozens of ecological schoolyards. Sharon is currently working with the San Francisco Unified School District on a groundbreaking green schoolyard program, and serves on the national board for the
Community Built Association, as well as the advisory board of the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance. She is the lead-author of the Green Schoolyard Resource Directory for the San Francisco Bay Area; a contributor to Landscape Architecture Magazine, Orion, and Green Teacher; and co-designer of the Sustainable Schoolyard exhibit displayed at the U.S. Botanic Garden in Washington, D.C. in 2008.

About New Village Press

New Village Press is a public-benefit publisher specializing in works about grassroots community building, urban ecology, and community cultural development. The press publishes progressive non-fiction that offers useful solutions to critical social, environmental and economic challenges. It is a division of the national non-profit organization, Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility.

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2 Responses to Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation

  1. I’m from the UK and I was delighted to find that this book is helpful and relevant to all schools all over the world. The content fits beautifully with our Eco School theme.

    Just found your blog! I think it’s great!

  2. Deborah Christman says:

    Claire Cooper Marcus recommended this book to me while I peppered her with questions at an ASLA dinner.
    Now my school in Contra Costa County is creating a master plan to implement some of the ideas from the book.

    Thank you Sharon Danks and Ms. Marcus!

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