In 1911, Danish-born landscape architect Jens Jensen, who left a lasting imprint on the upper Midwest, wrote of the school playground, "It belongs to the school and should not be conducted as a separate institution. Each gains from an association with the other. The playground gives the school building a setting which it too often lacks, and forms a kind of outdoor gymnasium."
Even a century ago, Jensen understood that the schoolyard could be both an area of recreation and exercise and of learning. It could offer an outdoor classroom.
Nearly 30 years later, still pondering the relationship between schools, pupils and playgrounds, Jensen opined that, "Each school should be surrounded with a park so the boy and girl from early youth until it leaves this educational center can come in contact with the living green, the perfume and color of flowers, the refreshing shade of trees and the song of the birds."
Green schoolyards, Jensen said, would improve the lives of more than just the school community.
"What a change there would be in the whole life of our people when this bit of native beauty could penetrate into these homes. The park areas around the schools could also be a place where mother and father could enjoy the starry evenings under the heavens and not be blinded by the electric light that hounds them from evening until dawn."
Jensen believed schoolyards should be planted with native trees and species and that they should be open to the entire neighborhood.
I've been thinking about these words recently, as I've been noticing a trend in Milwaukee.
In recent years, I've written about the greening of the three-acre concrete playground at Maryland Avenue Montessori, which opened in September. On a rainy day like today, the garden was holding a lot of water, making clear it's environmental value. Every day, it's obvious to passersby that the green space that was once a parking lot has helped beautify the neighborhood.
Last week,…Read more...