Education Outside is dedicated to transforming urban public schools into centers of 21st-century learning, environmental sustainability, and innovation by harnessing the educational and community-building power of green schoolyards.
Since 2001, Education Outside (formerly the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance) has spearheaded the effort to transform San Francisco’s asphalt school playgrounds into living green schoolyards designed to improve student learning, foster the next generation of environmental leaders, and cultivate healthy kids. The organization was founded by the board of San Francisco’s Tule Elk Child Development Center. In 1991, Tule Elk was one of the first San Francisco schools to replace its hard asphalt schoolyard with a living green schoolyard. The results were amazing. The green schoolyard was an ongoing adventure as children discovered nature’s lifecycles, excitedly cultivated and ate vegetables from their school garden, and observed and asked questions about the world around them. Teachers had a renewed passion for teaching and parents felt a sense of pride and community that was forming around their new green schoolyard. Inspired by this transformation, Tule Elk’s board founded Education Outside, based on the belief that every public school student should have the opportunity to learn, play, and discover in a green schoolyard.
During the past decade, Education Outside has gained national and international recognition for its leadership in the green schoolyards and outdoor classroom movement. The organization helped secure nearly $14 million in bond funding for the development of green schoolyards at 84 K-12 public schools in San Francisco—the largest green schoolyards system of any public school district in the country.
With this investment and opportunity, Education Outside is now working to:
Develop and pilot the Corps for Education Outside, the first service corps program in the U.S. dedicated to promoting outdoor experiential learning and leading sustainability efforts on K-12 public school campuses.
Provide San Francisco Unified School District with innovative outdoor classroom programming, teacher training, staffing, and curricula frameworks needed to successfully integrate green schoolyards into the fabric of academic and school community life.
Leverage strategic community and industry partnerships to expand and strengthen the quality of green schoolyards programming and resources available to public schools.
Share valuable outdoor classroom program models and best practices with school districts, school communities, nonprofit organizations, and educators nationwide.
Education Outside is a fiscally-sponsored program of the San Francisco School Alliance
Phone: 415.355.6979 x1565
Email: arden AT educationoutside DOT org
Phone: 415.355.6979 x1522
Email: brittany AT educationoutside DOT org
Director of Learning
Phone: 415.355.6979 x1538
Email: joyce AT educationoutside DOT org
Director of Programs
Phone: 415.355.6979 x1566
Email: rachel AT educationoutside DOT org
Email: rfudge AT educationoutside DOT org
135 Van Ness Avenue, Room 408
San Francisco, CA 94102
info AT educationoutside DOT org
Susan Mayer Hirsch
Laura Kline Lazarus
Is a “green schoolyard” the same thing as a school garden?
A school garden is often a component of a larger green schoolyard. SFUSD green schoolyards might consist of a pond or water feature, a native garden, a food-system garden, solar panels, rainwater cisterns, and other ecologically appropriate teaching tools.
What can children learn in a green schoolyard?
A green schoolyard can offer children hands-on opportunities to learn about plants and animals (biology), the relationship between the seasons and weather, the sun and the earth (geology/environment), the interrelationships between living things in the garden (ecology), how to grow food and flowers and care for a garden (gardening/horticulture), and how prepare food grown in the garden (cooking/nutrition). In addition, the green schoolyard is an outdoor classroom for the teaching of state education content standards.
What would I find in a green schoolyard?
Green schoolyards come in many sizes and forms, but certain features are common: a variety of accessible paths, varied habitats, a gathering place where an entire class can work together, seating areas for individuals and small groups, shade structures, flower and vegetable gardens, composting bins, and creative features such as murals, mosaics, and paving stones created by children. One might also find a sundial, a weather station, a greenhouse, a labyrinth, birdhouses and bird feeders, or a chicken coop or rabbit hutch.
How do green schoolyards help the environment?
Green schoolyards are created in an environmentally sustainable manner: gardens are maintained organically, some school lunch waste may go toward supporting a worm bin, gardens feature native plants that are easy to care for and require less water, plants are chosen to favor local birds and butterflies. Asphalt is removed allowing natural rainfall to soak into the soil and nurture plants and animals rather than becoming storm water run-off. And most importantly, the city-dwelling children who spend time in a green schoolyard learn about nature, their local ecology, and are introduced to the values of stewardship.
Who maintains the green schoolyard?
The children, teachers, parent, and community volunteers all have roles in maintaining the green schoolyard. In addition, most schools with green schoolyards employ a part-time garden teacher or coordinator to help the teachers design science projects and to work directly with the children in the garden.
How are green schoolyard projects in the public schools in San Francisco funded?
Historically, projects were funded entirely through parent association funds and private donations. A 2003 and 2006 facilities upgrade school bond provided public funding for design and construction of green schoolyards at forty five SFUSD elementary schools.
Do many public schools in San Francisco have some kind of green schoolyard space?
Yes, an increasing number of schools, from the pre-K level up to high school have green school yards. Presently, over 75 SFUSD school sites have some form of a school garden.
This FAQ sheet was in part written by Lynn Fuller, a parent at Sherman Elementary School.