More than playgrounds

The Boston Schoolyard Initiative aims to transform the city’s largely paved-over schoolyards into something more suitable for play — and for learning. I love the teacher’s observation about the kids’ behavior in their new outdoor classroom.

Since 1995, Boston has reconstructed 71 schoolyards, covering 125 acres and serving more than 25,000 children a day, Mr. Comart says. The yearly capital investment is about $1.2 million from the city and $600,000 from the Funders Collaborative, which also gives about $450,000 for operating expenses and professional development for teachers. By 2010, 87 yards should be complete, he says, and 27 will include outdoor classrooms. The hope now is to complete the 10 remaining elementary- and middle-school yards.

The teachers on hand during the tour made it easy for visitors to imagine children’s delight in the outdoor classroom at the William Monroe Trotter Elementary School in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. Third-grade teacher Christine Whittemore’s face lit up as she explained the concept of the garden she stood in: Corn, beans, and squash all grow in one plot – a “three sisters” garden like the kind the Wampanoag Indians showed to the Pilgrims. It ties in well with social studies lessons, she said.

The area used to be a vacant, trashy lot and now nurtures plants that attract butterflies. A square wooden pole sports a weather vane and thermometers, so students can correlate temperature to where the sun is.

“[The kids] sort of recognize this as kind of a special place. They’re quieter, more orderly,” Ms. Whittemore said.

from “Boston’s newest classrooms: schoolyards,” by Stacy Teicher Khadroo, Christian Science Monitor, 20 August 2008

Originally published at

Add Your Comments