School playgrounds need to get back to nature

Students, Christy Clark, Sir James Douglas school, Cloverdale school Victoria

Premier Christy Clark has announced $8 million for upgrading school playgrounds. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if “upgrades” meant not more plastic slides and climbing things, but a wider vision of what the grounds for children’s play could involve?

What if schools were to sponsor nature-based play? That would mean play in meadows and woods, among bird feeders, tiny fish ponds, hollow logs and low labyrinths created by interesting shrubs.

What if schools used their grounds not just for recess and sports, but for tracking and counting migrating birds and nests?

Think of the specimens students could find to put under microscopes in the classroom, think of what they could learn from schoolyard thermometers and sundials, from going out with collecting jars, sketch pads and story journals? Nature has always fed science, art and literature.

Some Victoria schools (Sir James Douglas and Cloverdale) have intriguing natural rock for kids to play on, but others, such as James Bay elementary, have nothing but blank flat concrete and climbing equipment.

As housing densifies and new parks fail to be created by municipalities, schoolyards become an ever-more significant portion of total urban green space. They should not be wasted by being black-topped.

Research tells us that time spent in nature makes children more relaxed, focused and refreshed for classroom learning.

No urban space is completely natural, but schools could do a lot better in becoming oases of greenspace in a paved, artificial, largely indoor world.

The B.C. Teachers Federation has pronounced the premier’s focus on playgrounds myopic, but in fact it could be the start of something transformative both to urban landscapes and to kids’ recreational lives, if only schools could shift the emphasis from monkey bars to the benefits of nature-play.

S.B. Julian

Victoria

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A rockfall closes Finlayson Arm Road and West Shore Parkway on Friday (March 5) afternoon. (Twitter/BC Transportation)
Malahat closed due to rockfall

Section of Trans-Canada Highway was scheduled for intermittent closures today for rock scaling work

The Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
Tsartlip First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA revealed COVID-19 outbreak

Chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA Adam Olsen apologizes

E:Ne Raw Food and Sake Bar is closing its doors until further notice after sexual assault allegations against an employee surfaced on social media. (Google Streetview)
Sexual assault allegations temporarily closing a second Victoria restaurant

Social media posts accuse an E:Ne Raw Food and Sake Bar employee of sexual assault

Valerie St. John and Heather Forbes hold up paintings by Sheryl Fisher that were auctioned off at the Bridges for Women Society’s 10th Annual International Women’s Day luncheon. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria event raising funds to support women facing violence, trauma

Bridges for Women Society will host its 11th annual International Women’s Day event online this year

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Lawyers for the British Columbia government and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms are back in B.C. Supreme Court today, squaring off over the legality of COVID-19 rules that prohibit in-person religious services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. top doctor has power to restrict access to a place during health hazard: lawyer

Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, Jacqueline Hughes says, Henry can restrict or prevent entry to a place

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
B.C. dentists and bus drivers want newly-approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

BC Dental Association says dentists and their teams cannot treat patients remotely

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

President of the BC Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) Teri Mooring is calling for teachers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by summer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Why it’s ‘urgent’ B.C. teachers get vaccinated from COVID-19 before summer

President Teri Mooring says not enough is being done to prevent virus transmission in schools

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, endangered orcas from the J pod swim in Puget Sound west of Seattle, as seen from a federal research vessel that has been tracking the whales. A new study from federal researchers provides the most detailed look yet at what the Pacific Northwest's endangered orcas eat. Scientists with the NOAA Fisheries Northwest Fisheries Science Center spent years collecting fecal samples from the whales as well as scales from the fish they devoured. They say their data reaffirm the central importance of Chinook salmon to the whales. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Study reinforces importance of Chinook to Pacific Northwest orcas

Data confirms how central the big salmon are to the orca’s diet year-round

Most Read