Research Summary

Parental perspectives on green schoolyards: Advantages outweigh disadvantages, but willingness to help is limited

Parents consider the advantages of green schoolyards to outweigh the disadvantages, but cite lack of time as a barrier to their more active involvement.

Children's Geographies

Interest in green schoolyards is a rapidly-growing phenomenon, due in part, to research showing multiple benefits of children’s engagement with nature. The successful implementation of green schoolyards includes parental involvement and support. This study investigated parents’ perspectives on green schoolyards and their willingness to become involved in the implementation.

A total of 402 parents of children in schools with green and paved schoolyards completed surveys asking for information about their appreciation of the schoolyard, children’s behavior in the schoolyard, advantages and disadvantages of a green schoolyard, and their willingness to become involved. Two different surveys were used. The first survey was conducted in 2012 among parents of children attending four different schools. One of the schools had two schoolyards; thus, five schoolyards were considered in the analysis. Two of the five schoolyards were green schoolyards, with one being recently greened and the other greened for many years. The second survey was conducted in 2015 among parents of children attending ten different schools, of which six had a recently-greened schoolyard. All of the participating schools were located in moderate to highly urbanized areas of the Netherlands. While the survey used in 2015 differed somewhat from the 2012 survey, the information collected through both surveys was similar.

Parents from schools with a green schoolyard reported greater appreciation of their schoolyard than parents from schools with a paved schoolyard. They also reported more often that the schoolyard supports varied play and other behaviors. Parents generally felt that green schoolyards had more advantages than disadvantages. The advantages included (1) the provision of a “nice play environment for children”, (2) the opportunity to “experience nature, connect to nature, respect nature, and enjoy being outdoors”, (3) the opportunity for outdoor education, and (4) opportunities for self-development. Parents from schools with green schoolyards and from schools with paved schoolyards reported approximately the same number of disadvantages, with the disadvantages including (1) maintenance and costs, (2) dirty clothes and dirt in general, (3) safety and health issues, and (4) restricted play opportunities. While green schoolyards require more maintenance and are more expensive than paved yards, this disadvantage was noted more often by parents from schools with a paved schoolyard versus green schoolyard. While parents mentioned children coming home dirty as a disadvantage, the majority of the parents noted that they didn’t mind. Parents expressed interest in being involved with green schoolyard planning and activities, but most of the parents were not interested in maintenance. Lack of time was noted as a barrier to more active involvement.

This study found that parents consider the advantages of green schoolyards to outweigh the disadvantages. Their willingness to be involved, however, is limited.