Environmental education landscapes
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Although there is growing acknowledgement of the benefits that exposure to nature can provide in terms of children’s healthy growth and development, and educators place a high value on learning from the direct experience of nature, children in many cities are being separated from nature due to urbanization. Evidence suggests that they suffer from nature deficit and increasing stress as a result. The elementary school campus can provide an opportunity to rebuild the link between children and nature by including natural elements. However, the majority of schoolyards are still one-dimensional asphalt open areas. Additionally, researchers argue that current environmental education has failed to show potential in improving the environment and that ideas like greening schoolyards should be included in the educational system. Additionally, little guidance exists for designers and educationalists seeking to integrate natural elements to curriculum by repurpose outdoor open space in schools. Using a literature review and case studies of environmental education schoolyards, this thesis develops a framework to generate primary school yards that provide opportunities for teachers to engage their students in active, hands-on learning and gain knowledge, skills, and values in environmental education. This framework is then applied to two randomly chosen elementary schoolyards in NYC in order to test the physical possibility of the framework.