Green infrastructure in schools: creating a network for stormwater management and student engagement and well-being

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WRRI Project;19-08-S

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NC Water Resources Research Institute


The two goals of this project were (1) to understand the spatial distribution of green infrastructure (GI) in schoolyards and associated benefits across school districts and communities that these school districts serve in North Carolina, (2) to understand how the placing GI in schoolyards, which we refer to as green schoolyards, improve children’s access to nature and its benefits through a case study in the City of Raleigh. This proposal addresses Focus Area 3: Community Development and Stormwater/Watershed Management through engaging children and teachers in public schools to better understand the existing capacity of GI on school grounds and potential benefits to children and communities. Specifically, we addressed three research questions: R1) Do schools enhance or mitigate inequities in children’s exposure to GI? R2) Does greening schoolyards improve students’ perceptions of the benefits of schoolyards? and R3) What factors predict children’s play in nature-rich areas as compared to traditional outdoor places in schoolyards. For R1, we focused on tree canopy and total greenness across four largest school districts in North Carolina, and for R2 and R3, we focused on nature-based elements in individual schoolyards, the use of schoolyards by students and teachers and the perception of students. The results of this project highlight that (1) public elementary schoolyards provide equitable exposure to tree canopy cover and total greenness, and public school systems are a promising partner to expand GI and urban greening equitably; (2) students’ positive view of schoolyards are more influenced by nature-based activities and teacher-led activities than greening schoolyards alone; (3) teachers can play a considerable role in unlocking the benefits that exist in green schoolyards by promoting children playing in nature-rich areas. Our findings can serve as a decision support for better GI planning, design for stormwater management and other co-benefits in partnership with schools.



Green infrastructure, Green schoolyards, Children and nature, Stormwater management, Environmental education