Does your schoolyard support access to nature and active outdoor play?
During the school week, children and youth spend half their waking hours at school. Schools share the responsibility for making sure students get outside and get active during those times. Alongside instruction and programs, the built and natural environment of the school makes a difference for students’ health.
Schoolyards Count! is a citizen-science project. A researcher at Wilfrid Laurier, and Ophea, Ontario’s healthy schools organization are asking people in school communities to use a research-based tool to evaluate the assets in their own schoolyard. When each school uploads its audit, it will help them form a comprehensive picture of schoolyard quality across Ontario.
The audit tool looks at different aspects of the schoolyard environment including whether it supports safe, active transportation; presence of trees, gardens and naturalized areas; structures and game markings; and the proportion of grass, pavement or other safety surfaces. It also asks questions about the time students spend playing and learning outside and the resources that support healthy schoolyards like funding and partnerships with municipalities and others. It takes about an hour to complete, and could be filled out by parents council groups, Eco-Schools clubs (it counts towards certification), or by students in class (likely students who are grade 6 and up, working with a teacher.
Researchers in England validated the SPEEDY Schoolyard Audit Tool. They used accelerometer data from children at 87 schools to show that schools with more health-promoting assets had more active students. The tool has been adapted for Ontario and includes information on efforts to improve sustainability in the schoolyard, as well as information about funding and use. The tool does not require any collection of personal data – all items are observable outdoors, or public data.
The SPEEDY Audit Tool and Survey is available online or in a downloadable PDF form. It is supported by an instruction manual and a 5 minute video that contains the key info you (or your class) need before getting started.
Schoolyards Count is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
SPEEDY Audit Tool and Survey Tool, Plus Resources to Get Started
What does my class need to know before getting started? Schoolyards Count! Video