Asphalt to Ecosystems

Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation


Below is a list of organizations in the United States and abroad that are dedicated to helping schools create ecological schoolyards and improving environmental education. Some of these organizations have broad missions, and others focus on specific subject areas such as renewable energy systems, school gardens, or play environments. Please see the organizations’ websites for more information.

For more information about Sharon Danks’ work, or her firm’s assistance in transforming your school’s “asphalt to ecosystems,” please contact her firm:

Bay Tree Design, inc.

EcoSchool Design®

Bay Tree Design, inc. is a women-owned landscape architecture and planning firm in Berkeley, California. Bay Tree Design works with schools to help them transform their asphalt-covered school grounds into vibrant, multi-faceted environments for ecological learning and play. Their work creates beautiful, functional spaces that reflect ecological design principles, green building practices, and edible and native planting palettes. Bay Tree Design offers environmental planning, landscape architecture and horticultural design services for residential, commercial, and educational settings.


United States: National Organizations

Alliance to Save Energy – Green Schools Program

American Community Garden Association

Center for Ecoliteracy

Center for Environmental Education

Children & Nature Network

Collaborative for High Performance Schools

Community Built Association

Energy Star – Program for K-12 School Districts

The Foundation for Environmental Education – Solar School Initiative


Life Lab Science Program

National Gardening Association – Kidsgardening

National Wildlife Federation – Schoolyard Habitats®

North American Association for Environmental Education

Project W.E.T. (Water Education for Teachers)

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

      Green Building

      Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water

      Teaching Center

U.S. Green Building Council – Build Green Schools Program


United States: Local, Regional, and State-wide Organizations

Boston Schoolyard Initiative (Massachusetts)

California School Garden Network (California)

Chicago Botanic Garden – School Gardening Program (Illinois)

D.C. Environmental Education Consortium – Schoolyard Greening (District of Columbia)

Earth Partnership for Schools (Wisconsin)

The Green Schools Initiative (California+)

Hawai’i Island School Garden Network (Hawaii)

Natural Learning Initiative (North Carolina)

REAL School Gardens (Texas)

San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance (California)


Other related websites

Sustainable Schoolyards Exhibit at the U.S. Botanic Garden

Sustainable Communities Network


International Organizations


European Federation of City Farms

International Play Association







Green Teacher Magazine



Bund der Jugendfarmen und Aktivspielplätze (Federation of Youth Farms and Activity Playgrounds)

Grün macht Schule

Schulgarten-Forum (School Garden Forum)



Association for Children’s Environment

ECO-JAPAN Ecosystem Conservation Society



Barnens Landskap (Children’s Landscape)

Movium–Centrum för miljö-och utomhuspedagogik (Centre for the Urban Public Space at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences)

Naturskoleföreningen (Association of Nature Schools in Sweden)

Naturskolan i Lund (Naturskolan in Lund)



Levande Skule (Living School)

Children’s Landscapes


United Kingdom

Learning through Landscapes



Useful Books and Articles for Developing Ecological Schoolyards

Bell, Anne C. and Janet E. Dyment. Grounds for Action: Promoting Physical Activity through School Ground Greening in Canada. Canada: Evergreen, 2006.

Bucklin-Sporer, Arden and Rachel Pringle. How to Grow a School Garden: A Complete Guide for Parents and Teachers. Timber Press, July 2010.

California School Garden Network.  Gardens for Learning: Creating and Sustaining Your School Garden. California School Garden Network, 2006

Danks, Sharon and Tamar Cooper. “Green Schoolyard Resource Directory for the San Francisco Bay Area.” San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance, 2006. (2008 Revised Edition edited by Marcie Keever and Rachel Pringle).

Danks, Sharon.“Stewardship Begins at School: In England, a Superlative Example of an Ecological Schoolyard.” Landscape Architecture Magazine. J. William Thompson, editor. Washington, DC: American Society of Landscape Architects (June 2003): 42, 44, 46, 48.

Danks, Sharon.  “Green Mansions: Living Willow Structures Enhance Children's Play Environments.” Landscape Architecture Magazine. J. William Thompson, editor. Washington, DC: American Society of Landscape Architects 38 (2002): 40-43, 93-94.

Danks, Sharon. “Ecological Schoolyards: Design Guidelines.” New Village Journal. Lynne Elizabeth, editor. Berkeley, CA: Architects / Designers / Planners for Social Responsibility 3 (2002): 74-77.

Danks, Sharon. “Courtyard Oases: Ecology at the Heart of the School.” Landscape Architecture Magazine. J. William Thompson, editor. Washington, DC: American Society of Landscape Architects (2002): 36-41.

Danks, Sharon. “Ecological Schoolyards.” Landscape Architecture Magazine. J. William Thompson, editor. Washington, DC: American Society of Landscape Architects, November (2000): 42-47.

Denzer, Kiko.  Build Your Own Earth Oven: A Low-Cost, Wood-Fired Mud Oven, Simple Sourdough Bread, Perfect Loaves. Hand Print Press, 2000.

Denzer, Kiko.  Dig Your Hands in the Dirt: A Manual for Making Art out of Earth. Hand Print Press, 2005.

Dunnett, Nigel and Andy Clayden.  Rain Gardens: Managing Water Sustainably in the Garden and Designed Landscape. Timber Press, 2007.

Evans, Ianto, Michael G. Smith, and Linda Smiley. The Hand-Sculpted House: A Practical and Philosophical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage. Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2002.

Evergreen.  All Hands in the Dirt: A Guide to Designing and Creating Natural School Grounds, Evergreen, 2000.

Evergreen. Nature Nurtures: Investigating the Potential of School Grounds. Evergreen, 2000.

Evergreen and Banyan Tree. Bricks of the Earth: A Hands-on Manual, An Innovative Way to Engage Students in Green Building Techniques. Evergreen, 2007.

Grant, Tim and Gail Littlejohn, eds. Greening School Grounds: Creating Habitats for Learning. New Society Publishers/Green Teacher, 2001.

Hart, Roger A. Children’s Participation: The Theory and Practice of Involving Young Citizens in Community Development and Environmental Care. Earthscan Publications Ltd./Unicef, 1997.

Jaffe, Roberta and Gary Appel. The Growing Classroom: Garden and Nutrition Activity Guide. Life Lab Science Program and National Gardening Association, 2007.

Keeler, Rusty.  Natural Playscapes: Creating Outdoor Play Environments for the Soul. Exchange Press, 2008.

Kinkade-Levario, Heather. Design for Water: Rainwater Harvesting, Stormwater Catchment, and Alternative Water Reuse. New Society Publishers, 2007.

Life Lab Science Program and Center for Ecoliteracy. Getting Started: A Guide for Creating School Gardens as Outdoor Classrooms. Life Lab Science Program, 1997.

Lyle, John Tillman. Regenerative Design for Sustainable Development. Wiley, 1994.

Moore, Robin C. Plants for Play: A Plant Selection Guide for Children’s Outdoor Environments. MIG Communications, 1993.

Moore, Robin C. and Herb H. Wong. Natural Learning: The Life History of an Environmental Schoolyard. MIG Communications, 1997.

Payne, Binet. The Worm Cafe: Mid-Scale Vermicomposting of Lunchroom Wastes. Flower Press, 1997.

Rahus Institute’s Solar Schoolhouse. Teaching Solar. Rahus Institute, 2009.

Sobel, David.  Mapmaking with Children: Sense of Place Education for the Elementary Years. Heinemann, 1998.

Stone, Michael and the Center for Ecoliteracy.  Smart by Nature: Schooling for Sustainability. University of California Press, 2009.

Titman, Wendy.  Special Places, Special People: The Hidden Curriculum of School Grounds. World Wide Fund for Nature/Learning through Landscapes, 1994.

Van der Ryn, Sim and Stuart Cowan. Ecological Design. Island Press, 1996.

Warnes, Jon. Living Willow Sculpture. Search Press, 2001.

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