school garden

© Berkeley Unified School District


The movement to green school grounds and connect children with nature has taken an important leap forward in the state of California. 

The 2015 Living Schoolyard Month Activity Guide was created in honor of the first Living Schoolyard Month. It was developed by Green Schoolyards America in collaboration with colleagues from 40+ organizations across California who contributed a wide range of ideas to help schools bring students outside and use their school grounds to their fullest.

As a contributor to this guide, the Academy encourages schools across California and beyond to take their students outside throughout the year to celebrate their grounds and use them for hands-on learning, place- based inquiry, recreation, environmental stewardship and community-building.

  • What are Living Schoolyards?
    • An introduction to the green schoolyard
  • Living Schoolyards in California
    • An overview of Living Schoolyard Month
  • Celebrate in May
    •  How to participate in Living Schoolyard Month
  • Make a Create-With-Nature Zone
    • Art class or recess activity — Zach Pine Nature Sculpture and University of California Blake Garden, Kensington, CA
  • Creative Painting with “Garden Paintbrushes”
    • Art class or recess activity — Explore Ecology, Santa Barbara, CA
  • Painting the Seasons
    • Art class activity — Green Schoolyards America, Berkeley, CA
  • Nature’s Watercolors
    • Art class or recess activity — La Scuola Italian International School, San Francisco, CA
  • Bird House Building
    • Art class activity — Waldorf School of the Peninsula, Los Altos, CA
  • The Nature Swap
    • Imaginative play — Nature Kids Institute, Orangeville, CA
  • Nature Elements in the Landscape
    • Playscape construction — Bay Tree Design, inc., Berkeley, CA
  • “Everybody’s It” Tag
    • Cooperation game — Playworks, Oakland, CA
  • Jump the River
    • Coordination game — Playworks, Oakland, CA
  • Schoolyard Nature Lotería
    • Board game — Latino Outdoors, Capitola, CA
  • Lighthouse
    • Cooperation game — Life Lab, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Photosynthesis Tag
    • Science game — Los Angeles Unified School District,Office of Outdoor and Environmental Education, Los Angeles, CA
  • Family Camp Out in the Schoolyard
    • Family time — Outdoors Empowered Network, San Francisco, CA
  • Jump Rope Activities
    • Active play — American Heart Association, Los Angeles, CA
  • Plant Part Relay Race
    • Active game — Community Alliance with Family Farmers, Davis, CA
  • The Tree is Like Me!
    • Plant and human physiology / art — TreePeople, Beverly Hills, CA
  • Why Eat Colorful Rainbow Food?
    • Nutrition and sharing food — Trinity Gardens, Santa Barbara, CA
Wildlife Habitat
  • Schoolyard Investigations Using Tools
    • Science and math lesson — Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, CA
  • Blue Whale: An Animal of Unusual Size
    • Science and math lesson — California Coastal Commission, San Francisco, CA
  • Butterfly Habitat Hunt
    • Schoolyard ecology — National Wildlife Federation, Schoolyard Habitats®, Midpines, CA
  • Schoolyard Habitat Survey
    • Science lesson / grounds improvement — CalRecycle, Sacramento, CA
  • Steal the Native Plant
    • Plant identification game — Center for Land-Based Learning, Winters, CA
  • Plant a Native Hedgerow
    • Ecology / grounds improvement — Collaborative for High Performance Schools, Sacramento, CA
  • Garden-Based Learning Lesson: Interdependence
    • Science lesson / habitat — Berkeley Public School Gardening & Cooking Program, Berkeley, CA
  • Object Match Challenge
    • Nature journaling / science / writing — California Native Plant Society, Sacramento, CA
  • Documenting Biodiversity in Your Schoolyard
    • Scientific lesson / place-based study — California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA
Watershed Stewardship
  • Follow the Water: Make a Stormwater Map
    • Science lesson — The Trust for Public Land, San Francisco, CA
  • Sheet Mulching: Turn Lawns into Native Gardens to Save Water
    • Science / horticulture / grounds improvement — StopWaste, Alameda County, CA
  • Calculating Rainwater Runoff
    • Science and math lesson — Education Outside and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, San Francisco, CA
Schoolyard Agriculture
  • Civilizations of the Americas: Aztec Alegría Recipe
    • Ancient civilizations / cooking — The Edible Schoolyard, Berkeley, CA
  • Herb Bundles
    • Sensory exploration — San Francisco Botanical Garden, San Francisco, CA
  • Seed Saving with Children
    • Horticultural techniques — Grow Your Lunch, LLC, San Francisco, CA
  • Plant Root Explorations
    • Botany — Hidden Villa, Los Altos Hills, CA
  • Roots and Shoots
    • Botany — Full Option Science System (FOSS) Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
  • Six of One, Half Dozen of the Other
    • Sensory exploration — Life Lab, Santa Cruz, CA
Energy and Climate
  • Make a Solar Etching
    • Art project with science theme — Rahus Institute - Solar Schoolhouse, Sebastopol, CA
  • Introduction to Renewable Energy
    • Science lesson — Education Outside, San Francisco, CA
Thoughtful Use of Materials
  • Think Before You Throw: 4Rs Recycling Race
    • Recycling game — Green Schools Initiative, Berkeley, CA
  • Compost Gourmet
    • Science / decomposition / soil health — TreePeople, Beverly Hills, CA
Place-Based Understanding
  • Finding Your Place in the World
    • Nature journaling / outdoor observation — The Presidio Trust, San Francisco, CA
  • Create a Schoolyard Site Survey Map
    • Mapping / place-based study — U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Sacramento, CA
  • Exploring Our Relationship to Place
    • Place-based study / observation — Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, Occidental, CA
  • Reflection Writing in Your Green Schoolyard
    • Place-based study / observation — Nature’s Voices, Green Schools Initiative, Berkeley, CA
Appropriate for: Preschool - 12th Grade
Standards for: Preschool, Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Activity Time: 60 minutes
Subjects: Life Science

Attached Files