Cooling the Schools is all about connecting kids to nature, and empowering them to take action in their communities to create greener, cooler places where both people and nature can thrive.
Thanks to funding from Green Adelaide through the Grass Roots grant round stage 2, we piloted Cooling the Schools with eight schools in the City of Playford, adding thousands of plants to Adelaide’s northern suburbs.
As well as getting their hands dirty planting, students learned about how increasing green cover can tackle urban heat and cool their schoolgrounds, and provide critical habitat for wildlife.
Greening Australia also partnered with Red Centre Enterprises to provide insights for students into the First Nations Cultural Significance of their Native plants, animals and the First Nation Country where they live, study and play.
The whole community is getting a chance to be involved through a connected planting day at a local park. These plants can be enjoyed by local residents into the future, and we hope will inspire more plantings in backyards too!
Site visit by Greening Australia staff to initiate co-design of planting area
Shade-bearing trees and shrubs, plus understorey plants that provide habitat for native pollinators
School planting with curriculum-linked lesson on the Urban Heat Island Effect delivered by Greening Australia
First Nations cultural education provided by Red Centre Enterprises
Opportunities to participate in a community planting day at a local park
Sign-off by the school principal
Space in school grounds to plant shade-bearing trees and shrubs suitable for the site and care of plants integrated into school’s landscape maintenance regime
Participation in pre- and post-program surveys
Some areas in our cities are more vulnerable to heat stress and the Urban Heat Island Effect than others, because they have more ‘grey cover’ (built-up areas that retain heat) and less ‘green cover’ (trees and other plants that shade surfaces and cool the air).
The hotspots are becoming more noticeable as our climate changes, temperatures rise and heatwaves intensify. However, adding more plants to our cities can help to tackle this effect, and create cooler spaces where people want to spend time outdoors.
Neighbourhoods that are low in ‘green cover’ are also some of our biggest opportunities to restore habitat for wildlife that live alongside us, and to improve the quality and diversity of green spaces for the community.
Adding more plants also boosts the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of residents, and particularly of children. It’s been shown that green learning environments in schools and neighbourhoods make a significant contribution to young people’s development, both through formally structured activities (skills in areas like Science, Technology, Geography and Mathematics) and informal play.
This is where many of their lifelong values, actions and beliefs are formed as they get inspired, run, play and undergo huge emotional, physical and social development.
The benefits of adding more nature into cities are supported by research, but ‘just add plants’ is not a solution on its own – children and their communities need to see the benefits for themselves, feel connected to nature, and be empowered to take steps to green their neighbourhood and help adapt to a changing climate.
Schools play a vital role as hubs in our society’s social networks, bringing together people from all walks of life around a common interest: nurturing the next generation of future leaders.
That makes schools a great place to start when it comes to providing children with opportunities to connect with nature and feel the benefits firsthand – and then sharing that experience with the whole community.
Nature ought to be a feature of the places where our children spend most of their days: schools, neighbourhoods and backyards. This is not always the case, and it can be especially easy to tell on hot summer days, when a lack of shade drives us inside. However, if we put plants back into our cities, we can create cooler places for us all to live and play (local plants and animals included).
That’s the concept behind Cooling the Schools, which aims to cool urban areas, establish native habitat, and give children opportunities to connect to nature in their neighbourhoods.
This Cooling the Schools pilot was funded by Green Adelaide, through the Grass Roots grant round stage 2. Greening Australia partnered with the City of Playford and Red Centre Enterprises to deliver the project.
Cooling the Schools is part of Greening Australia’s Nature in Cities program. As climate change and population growth intensify pressures on our urban areas, we are working with partners across Australia to create greener, more liveable cities where both people and nature thrive.
For more information, please feel free to send us an online query.
Deb is Senior Program Officer with Greening Australia’s Nature in Cities program in Adelaide. She brings her enthusiasm, her experience in program management and her background in Environmental Science to her role at Greening Australia, developing and implementing various landscape restoration and community engagement initiatives.