A Guest Rant by Mary Gray

Observe, if you will, your local public school.  Not the inside.  No, take a look at what’s going on outside — on the school grounds. 

Pretty much nothing, right?  Oh, there are the large expanses of patchy grass serving no purpose whatsoever — not functional, not aesthetic, just boring old swaths of blah.  And then there’s probably an empty courtyard, like this one:

A place that could be put to good use for the students and faculty but that just languishes empty and lifeless throughout the seasons.

It shouldn’t be this way. Picture if you will a school where the potential of the GROUNDS is fully realized. 

A place where student clubs and vocational classes design, plant, and maintain beautiful school landscapes that include flowering trees, shrubs, and perennials.  And in doing so, they learn about design, botany, teamwork, and sweat. 

Where a portion of the playing fields are given over to natural playscapes, filled with an array of plant life, where kids could play tag among the trees or observe a butterfly in the act of pollination.  And minds as well as bodies are exercised.

Where science teachers help their students design and build a rain garden, or a planted swale.  And everyday, students see how something they built has made their environment healthier and more beautiful.

Where English teachers lead students out of their cinder-block classrooms and into the open-air to enjoy reading Walden or Leaves of Grass the way the authors intended. 

Where kids research and plant natives and then inventory the visiting insects and birds.

Where seeds are planted and harvests reaped, both literally and figuratively. 

So am I just a crazy dreamer or are most schools wasting what could be an incredible inspiration and resource for learning?  School grounds offer an array of educational opportunities for creative teachers, administrators, and parents, and it’s the kind of learning which would exercise not only the mind, but the body, the imagination, the senses.

So what are we waiting for?