Award-winning Outdoor PLAYbook seeks to transform Canada’s schoolyards

Garden City Play Environment, Richmond, BC

Many schoolyards in Canada look like parking lots: vast asphalt or gravel surfaces with little shade or vegetation. Too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter, these are the places where children go to learn and play for much of their childhoods. The new Outdoor PLAYbook project supports parents, communities, schools and school boards to transform their schoolyards to improve human and ecological health, reduce costs and contribute to enriching children’s learning and play spaces.

Designed by an interdisciplinary team of researchers from UBC’s School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Faculty of Education, and Faculty of Medicine  in partnership with the Vancouver School Board, the Outdoor PLAYbook leads school communities through the design process to bring together diverse elements of outdoor play and learning environments. The guide recognizes that “no one thing does one thing” and connects different types of play elements (for instance, green infrastructure, ground surfaces, mounds and topography, outdoor classrooms, planters and gardens, plants, play equipment, etc.) to grade-appropriate designs as well as a wide range of children’s play and learning activities (e.g., climbing, sliding, cooperating, growing, challenging, etc.).

SFU UniverCity Childcare, Burnaby, BC

Once a schoolyard becomes an inviting outdoor classroom, students learn better, play better, and our communities grow healthier, more resilient and more sustainable. The award-winning Outdoor PLAYbook website, which is updated as research continues to be conducted at the University of Calgary, Faculty of Environmental Design, offers school communities a unique toolkit to transform Canadian schoolyards into dynamic environments for learning, growing, and playing.

To learn more, visit the website at

The Outdoor PLAYbook was a recipient of the 2017 Canadian Society of Landscape Architects National Awards of Excellence.

Featured photo: Garden City Play Environment, Richmond, BC

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