The International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA) is a global network of organizations and professionals dedicated to improving the design and utilization of school grounds in order to enrich children's learning and play. They believe that “school grounds are crucial childhood landscapes, both in terms of the considerable time spent there and the messages to children (both explicit and implicit) that come from their design and care.”1
Consequently, ISGA sees the schoolyard as a valuable asset for reintroducing play back into children's development and learning. They also recognize that a well designed and maintained schoolyard communicates to the children that they are an important part of the community.
ISGA originated from a series of conferences organized by Cam Collyer of Evergreen in Canada, Mary Jackson of Learning through Landscapes in the United Kingdom, and Sharon Danks of Bay Tree Design, Inc. in the United States.2
In June of 2010, Learning through Landscapes hosted the conference The World Outside the Classroom in Winchester, England. With speakers from Sweden, Norway, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and England, new ideas were shared and support given to the international movement concerned with fostering children's learning and play.
The following year in September of 2011, the conference entitled Engaging Our Grounds: International Green Schoolyards Conference brought together designers, teachers, parents, community members, school administrators, foundations, corporations, environmentalists, and nonprofit organizations who represented 20 states and 6 countries.3 Held in San Francisco and Berkeley, California, the conference included keynote presentations concerning best practices in green school grounds design and maintenance, school curricula, and play advocacy. Additionally, there was a resource and networking fair and two afternoons of viewing exemplary schoolyards and school gardens in the San Francisco and Berkeley communities.
During this conference the International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA) was founded and a steering committee formed with more than 30 organizations and companies, such as the Atlanta Taskforce on Play, The Boston Schoolyard Initiative, the Children in Nature Collaborative, Learnscapes Planning and Design, and Play Learning Life. As a nonprofit, membership organization, ISGA gathers professionals in school ground use, education, design, and management to help schools “weave learning into their landscapes, diversify their recreational offerings, enhance their local ecology, and reflect their unique location and cultural context.”4
The ISGA believes that schoolyards should nurture students' physical, social and emotional development, provide hands-on learning opportunities, embrace the necessity of risk taking in child development, reflect the uniqueness of local surroundings, and be accessible to the nearby neighborhoods.5 Concerning these issues they give global support and facilitate the exchange of ideas by hosting a website, an online discussion group, and international conferences.
Another communicative avenue they have utilized is creating and sharing the video, Voices from the International School Grounds Movement, which they filmed during the 2011 conference. Some of the featured voices include Dr. Robin Moore of Natural Learning Initiative, Helen Tyas Tunggal of Learnscapes Planning and Design, and Cam, Mary, and Sharon, the co-founders of ISGA. They declare the importance of creating and caring for play and learning environments that support children's well being.
- 1. “New international group forms to address an increasingly sedentary and risk-averse generation of children disconnected from nature.” International School Grounds Alliance. Press release April 24, 2012. < http://www.schoolyards.org/pdf/ISGA_PressRelease_4-24-12.pdf > 21 May 2012.
- 2. Ibid.
- 3. Danks, Sharon. “Conference a Beautiful Success!” International School Grounds Alliance. Blog October 28, 2011. < http://www.greenschoolyards.org/blog/entry/2386233/conference-a-beautiful-success > 25 May 2012. Note: The countries involved were Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
- 4. “About the International School Grounds Alliance.” International School Grounds Alliance. < http://www.greenschoolyards.org/home/about_the_international_school_grounds_alliance > 25 May 2012.
- 5. Ibid.