Green Grounds for Play and Learning: An Intergenerational Model for Joint Design and Use of School and Park Systems

Alessandro Rigolon, Victoria Derr, Louise Chawla

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter explores how green school grounds can be conceived and used as neighbourhood parks, how city parks can serve as outdoor classrooms, and how these spaces can be designed to serve intergenerational needs through participatory processes with school children and older residents. After briefly reviewing the benefits of contact with nature for the health and well-being of children and adults and social inequities in access to nature, we examine the possibilities and challenges of shared design and management partnerships between school districts and parks departments as a way to ensure access to nature for all citizens, regardless of age, income or ethnicity. We also look for common principles in the design of green schoolyards and parks that can suit different age groups.

To illustrate these ideas, we present a case study of an initiative in Boulder, Colorado (USA) that took advantage of a school’s need for a new playground and an adjacent park’s simultaneous need for a new master plan. A participatory design process engaged elementary and middle school students, parents, school administrators, teachers, neighbourhood and senior housing residents, park staff, and faculty and students from the local university’s design programme. Drawing on interviews with key agents in this process, we distil lessons from the initiative’s successes and its potential for improvements, with recommendations that could be applied wherever local governments seek to use school grounds as community green spaces and schools seek to expand into local parks as grounds for learning.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationHandbook on Green Infrastructure Planning, Design and Implementation
StatePublished - 2015


  • Urban, Community and Regional Planning
  • Community Health
  • Civic and Community Engagement

Cite this