How Cities Around the World are Turning to School Grounds to Address Climate Change


  • Dr. Robert Blaine
July 6, 2023 - (4 min read)

The message is clear – without transformational, rapid, and collaborative change from across the world, all of us will be subject to the most extreme impacts from climate change. In my role leading NLC’s Center for Leadership, Education, Advancement and Development where our work impacts the lives of children and their families, that is a world we do not want to leave for our children. City leaders from across the nation – and world – agree.

Faced with this mounting pressure, cities, towns and villages worldwide are looking toward nature for solutions. Many leaders are tapping into an opportunity that may seem unconventional at first sight, yet effective and inspiring in every way: merging the goals of health and resiliency of our climate and environment with the health and resiliency of our children. After all, it’s the next generation that will be left to deal with the results of our current actions. Let’s connect them to nature and climate solutions early. And, what better place to do that than where children go everyday: school yards.

Schoolyards may not be the first place city leaders think of when addressing climate change. Yet, there is a global trend to transform school grounds into nature-filled spaces that also enhance climate resilience, achieve local sustainability goals and connect children to the many proven benefits of nature. In many cities, school districts follow city government as the second largest landowner. And, when it comes to building sustainable and resilient cities, we in the US can learn from an abundance of lessons from around the world.

Invitation to Webinar

That is why I am excited to announce that NLC’s CEO and Executive Director Clarence E. Anthony will lead a conversation with four city leaders from the US and around the world: Luiz Guitierrez, Mayor of Jundiai Municipality in Brazil; Kim Verstrepen, the Chief of Staff to Deputy Mayor Tom Meeuws of Antwerp, Belgium, Mayor Becky Daggett of Flagstaff, AZ; and Erick Shambarger, the City of Milwaukee’s Environmental Sustainability Director. These four leaders will share best practices as well as tools, resources and opportunities to ensure our children and planet are left in better hands. 

By working together and collaborating across disciplines, we can find solutions to our climate crisis that are equitable, sustainable, and just…and do better for our future generations.

Lessons from Cities Around the World: Sustainability and Resilience through Green Schoolyards
July 26 2023
2 pm – 3 pm EST
Register Now

A scalable and universally applicable nature-based solution

“Green oases” in Paris’ public schools reduce vulnerability to heat waves. An “unwalled childhood” political decision in Brazil prioritizes children’s wellbeing. A city-led grant program promotes greening school grounds in Antwerp, Belgium. It is evident that city leaders are ready to take bold actions to meet the demands of a changing climate.

In November 2021, more than 50 organizations and leaders including NLC came together for the launch of Global Lessons on Greening School Grounds & Outdoor Learning, a joint initiative of the Salzburg Global Seminar, the International School Grounds Alliance, International Union for Conservation of Nature, #NatureForAll, and the Children & Nature Network.

See how schoolyard greening has impacted children Antwerp, Belgium:

The goal of this project was to learn, to scale and to share. Mostly, so other cities could see that greening school grounds is truly achievable. Our webinar will focus on city-led initiatives to better understand how municipal leadership led to successful green schoolyard efforts that also achieve climate resiliency goals and improve community health and wellbeing.

A growing number of US city leaders have also shown a readiness to commit city resources to green schoolyard programs to help meet important sustainability and environmental justice goals. Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN), a joint initiative of the NLC and the Children & Nature Network that started in 2016, supports more than 50 cities across the country to connect children to the benefits of nature more often and more equitably – including the development of green schoolyard initiatives.

See how schoolyard greening has impacted children in Jundiai, Brazil:

CCCN works to bring city leaders and school district partners together through training, technical assistance, and catalytic support to expand policies, programs, and green infrastructure on school grounds. These efforts help cities execute goals related to climate resiliency and sustainability while expanding access to nearby parks. It’s truly a win-win.

These types of win-win examples are exactly what Clarence and three city leaders will discuss at our Lessons from Cities Around the World webinar on July 26. Please join us to learn how your city can tap into these opportunities. With the effects of climate change well underway and the growing need for community health and wellbeing, bold and urgent action is needed.

About the Author

Dr. Robert Blaine

About the Author

Dr. Robert Blaine is the Senior Executive and Director, Center for Leadership, Education, Advancement and Development at the National League of Cities.