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Green Schoolyard Guidelines


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Green Schoolyard Guidelines
For more information, Please see websites below:
Organic Edible Schoolyards & Gardening with Children
Double Food Production from your School Garden with Organic Tech
Free School Gardening Art Posters`
Companion Planting Increases Food Production from School Gardens
Healthy Foods Dramatically Improves Student Academic Success
City Chickens for your Organic School Garden
Simple Square Foot Gardening for Schools - Teacher Guide

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Green Schoolyard Guidelines

  1. 1. Revised: October 16, 2013 GREEN SCHOOLYARD GUIDELINES
  3. 3. 3 I. PREAMBLE The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD or District) recognizes the importance of green schoolyards as a means of providing:  contextual, interactive, outdoor education that is integrated with in- class curriculum in core subject areas,  a living laboratory for exploring food systems, ecological principles, and sustainable practices,  opportunities for non-structured play that nurtures students’ creativity, social and emotional development, and ability to gauge challenges and age-appropriate risk,  places where children can find pleasure, comfort, and beauty,  a welcoming environment to current and prospective families, and  opportunities for building community and stewardship at schools. However, the explosion in school site interest in green schoolyards has not always been accompanied by the desire to maintain these spaces. With ever dwindling resources and a skeletal staff of gardeners maintaining an area half the size of Golden Gate Park, the SFUSD Landscaping Department (Landscaping) is not in a position to provide the care necessary to maintain spaces that are intended as green schoolyards. While community partners have stepped in to help in isolated instances it is the school sites that are ultimately responsible for their green schoolyards. In order to promote green schoolyards in a sustainable way, these guidelines were drafted to:  identify the roles and responsibilities of school communities, SFUSD staff, and community greening partners vis-à-vis schoolyard design and maintenance  establish parameters for good design of green schoolyards, including gardens, play spaces, and outdoor classrooms, and  guide the selection of plants and other materials used in green schoolyards. While it is the District’s hope that all green schoolyards will thrive under the care of their ever-changing communities, it is also recognized that some of these spaces will be abandoned over time, so provisions must be made for thoughtfully integrating these areas back into the landscaped areas of the District.
  4. 4. 4 II. CONTACTS ALL INITIAL GREEN SCHOOLYARD QUESTIONS SHOULD BE DIRECTED TO EDUCATION OUTSIDE EDUCATION OUTSIDE PLANNING, FUNDING, STAFFING, MAINTENANCE, TREES, RAINWATER, MULCH & COMPOST, CURRICULUM & TROUBLESHOOTING Education Outside is the one-stop shop for green schoolyard resources and know-how. Staffed by former garden educators, Education Outside provides assistance and training for green schoolyard design, implementation, and curricular connections. A web-based resource guide, a monthly resource bulletin, and a community listserv devoted to school garden projects are also available to schools. Info Line (415) 355-6979, Ext. 1566 SFUSD PROP A GREEN SCHOOLYARD BOND PROGRAM QUESTIONS ABOUT BOND-FUNDED SCHOOLYARD GREENING (ONLY) Since 2003, SF voters have approved $12 million in green schoolyard funds. The bonds pay for master planning, design, and construction of green schoolyard infrastructure. Schools subsequently take over responsibility for planting, enhancing, and maintaining their new green spaces. Lori Shelton (415) 241-6152, Ext. 1557 Tamar Barlev (415) 241-6152, Ext. 1577 SFUSD DISTRICT ARCHITECT APPROVALS OF MAJOR GREEN SCHOOLYARD UPGRADES & INSTALLATIONS (E.G. ASPHALT REMOVAL, RAINWATER INSTALLATION, GARDEN SHEDS, ETC.) Simon Reyes (415) 241-4311
  5. 5. 5 III. RESPONSIBILITIES SCHOOL/DISTRICT APPROVALS Establishing or expanding a green schoolyard is an exciting and worthwhile endeavor. At the same time, schools must go out of their way to consider all possible users and ensure that all applicable building regulations are followed. Therefore, although approval by the principal is required, other District entities must also review any expansion plans with an eye toward these regulations. The Project Manager for each bond-funded Green Schoolyard project will coordinate approvals for the site. At sites that are NOT using bond greening funds, creation or expansion of green schoolyards (including the addition of permanent fixtures like shade structures and larger sheds) MUST BE APPROVED BY THE SITE PRINCIPAL AND DISTRICT OR RISK BEING REMOVED. Please follow the following process: 1. Obtain permission from the principal to develop/expand the green schoolyard. 2. Refer to the DESIGN PRINCIPALS and SCHOOLYARD ELEMENTS sections of this document to become familiar with the District green schoolyard standards. 3. Contact Education Outside to discuss ideas, get advice for developing an initial design, and obtain a site plan for the school. 4. Pay special attention to ensuring that any new green schoolyard is ADA accessible for children with disabilities (p. 13). In addition, imported materials (soil, amendments, mulch, etc.) and areas that will planted/amended/disturbed need to be tested for lead and other heavy metals (p.15). 5. Sketch the preliminary design onto the site plan (APPENDIX II), indicating the location of major components such as pathways, planting areas, sheds, green houses, shade structures, trellises, trees, and rainwater cisterns. 6. Develop a materials and plant list (with budget) that identifies the main costs anticipated for the project. Assemble relevant spec sheets and/or obtain descriptions and dimensions. 7. Create a Community Stewardship Plan to assign responsibility for maintaining the new spaces (APPENDIX III). 8. Review #5 - #7 with, and obtain approval from, the site’s principal. 9. Submit these documents to Education Outside for review and the District Architect’s office for final approval. Rainwater harvesting, sidewalk garden, and tree planting projects have specific requirements and funding sources that should be discussed with Education Outside before initiating these projects (APPENDICES V & VI)
  6. 6. 6 MAINTENANCE: Once the schoolyard is established, maintenance becomes an issue of utmost concern. A green schoolyard requires constant care and attention in order to flourish and provide the many benefits listed above. Since Landscaping will not be able to provide maintenance support in most cases, school communities must establish a maintenance plan and follow the guidelines below. SITE RESPONSIBILITIES Schools are strongly encouraged to foster an ethic of community stewardship around their green schoolyards, since such areas become the responsibility of the hosting school site. In addition, each school MUST: 1. Designate a Green Schoolyard Liaison to serve as the main point of contact for the District and Education Outside (next section). 2. Form a green schoolyard committee (PTA-sponsored if possible) composed of staff, parents, students, and interested community members to manage their green schoolyard. 3. Sign a Maintenance Agreement (APPENDIX I) and indicate its green schoolyard spaces on their Green Schoolyard Map (APPENDIX II). 4. Submit the Maintenance Agreement and Green Schoolyard map to Education Outside each fall (135 Van Ness, Room 408; FAX 415 252- 5935). 5. Create/update a Community Stewardship Plan (APPENDIX III). 6. Keep its green spaces orderly by keeping weeds under control, harvesting fruits and vegetables in a timely manner, trimming back overgrown plants, and putting away tools to minimize pest infestations and promote safety. 7. Provide additional maintenance of schoolyards prior to the end of school year (see Summer Maintenance in MAINTENANCE). 8. Avoid planting prior to summer break if no one is available to maintain the schoolyard over the summer. GREEN SCHOOLYARD LIAISON Each site MUST HAVE at least one designated Green Schoolyard Liaison, who represents the school’s interests and serves as the main point of contact for SFUSD and Education Outside. Two liaisons may be chosen to overlap on availability for year-round coverage. Liaisons may be a school staff member, teacher, Garden Coordinator, Environmental Liaison, interested parent, chair of the Green Schoolyard Committee, or administrator. The Green Schoolyard Liaison will communicate with SFUSD and Education Outside staff as follows: 1. Liaisons should contact their principals, as well as Education Outside or SFUSD’s Green Schoolyard Bond Program (if applicable) to discuss programmatic issues, school site concerns, or general questions about the schoolyard or outdoor education.
  7. 7. 7 2. If particular issues require the attention of Landscaping, Education Outside will facilitate this conversation. 3. Similarly, if the Landscaping Department has concerns regarding a particular schoolyard, it will raise its concerns to Education Outside, which will then seek a solution in collaboration with the principal and Green Schoolyard Liaison. 4. When a new Green Schoolyard Liaison is chosen, (s)he should notify Education Outside by email ASAP and conduct an exit interview with the outgoing representative to learn about the history of the green schoolyard efforts at the site. 5. The new Liaison should also submit an updated (signed) Maintenance Agreement (APPENDIX I). SCHOOLYARD MAPS & MAINTENANCE AGREEMENTS When schoolyard changes occur, each site will be required to update its Green Schoolyard Map (APPENDIX II) to clearly designate areas of the school grounds that are under the stewardship of the school community. Areas outside this boundary will be maintained by Landscaping using minimal-maintenance techniques, which could include mowing and pruning. In addition, Education Outside will ask principals to designate a Green Schoolyard Liaison, who will submit a yearly update of their Green Schoolyard Maintenance Agreement (APPENDIX I) each fall. This document acknowledges the school’s responsibility over areas designated in the Green Schoolyard Map. SFUSD RESPONSIBILITIES SFUSD maintains planted areas at school sites on a rotational basis, working on projects in the following order:  emergencies (leaks, broken branches, etc.)  scheduled maintenance  work order from sites (special requests) The time spent at different sites depends on the tasks, size, and specific needs of each school. While SFUSD is not responsible for maintaining green schoolyard areas designated on school site maps, the District MAY BE able to:  fix outdoor irrigation leaks  address rodent or pest issues  add/fix one hose bibb per site per year  deliver compost/wood chips once per school year (see next section)  pick up yard waste once a year (see Yard Waste Pick-Up, below)
  8. 8. 8 Schools may request any of the above by asking the site principal to submit a work order. SFUSD WILL NOT:  perform general schoolyard maintenance (weeding, etc.)  construct planting beds, install irrigation, or provide other planting infrastructure  install fences or gates around green spaces  deliver or remove construction materials to/from a school  loan equipment (rototillers, weed whackers, etc.) to school sites  purchase garden supplies Contact Education Outside to get help in obtaining the resources above. COMPOST & MULCH DELIVERIES Landscaping will provide compost, wood chips, and (occasionally) soil to school sites ONCE PER YEAR as their schedule allows. Please request these materials by: 1. Contacting Education Outside at least two weeks prior to the desired delivery date to schedule the drop-off. 2. Indicating HOW MUCH material is being requested (see for a cubic yard calculator). 3. Identifying WHERE the materials should be delivered, making sure that a truck will have access to the location (no parked cars, locked gates, safety issues). 4. Providing a window of time WHEN delivery is possible. YARD WASTE PICK-UP Wherever possible, schools are encouraged to manage green waste through on- site composting. However, there will be occasions when a school’s compost pile or leaf repositories are not sufficient to deal with the clippings from schoolyard work days. In these instances, Landscaping will pick-up green waste as follows: 1. CONTACT Education Outside at least two-weeks prior to the pick-up date. 2. Make sure the yard waste DOES NOT CONTAIN DIRT or PLASTIC TRASH BAGS (paper yard waste bags are fine). 3. Place the yard waste ON THE SCHOOL GROUNDS (not the sidewalk) in an area that is safely out of the way of student activity but accessible to a large truck. 4. LARGE BRANCHES should be separated from smaller debris, vines, and clippings, with cut ends facing the same direction to facilitate shredding.
  9. 9. 9 FAILURE TO MAINTAIN SCHOOLYARDS Landscaping staff that have concerns about the maintenance of a particular greened space (overgrown, weeds, rodents, etc.) will bring these concerns to Education Outside before taking any unilateral action on a green schoolyard. Education Outside will work with all involved parties to identify resources, support, and possible solutions to address the lack of maintenance. The site will be given a reasonable period of time to rectify the problem or redefine the green schoolyard boundary. Green schoolyard projects that are not maintained despite repeated attempts to improve the situation will be laid fallow or reabsorbed by Landscaping as outlined in the next section. UNUSED SCHOOLYARDS From time to time, despite the best efforts of the school site, it may become necessary to disassemble a green schoolyard due to the lack of resources and/or available maintenance capacity. In such cases: 1. The principal should contact Education Outside to indicate that (s)he would like to have her community turn the space into a low- maintenance plot for future maintenance by the Landscaping Department. 2. Education Outside will facilitate a meeting with Landscaping and school site representatives to identify the actions that the school site must take before Landscaping will assume responsibility of the space. 3. The school will need to organize a community work day to make the required changes. 4. Only after changes are made will a school be allowed to expand green schoolyard areas elsewhere on site. After the alterations are made, the site should provide Education Outside with a revised Green Schoolyard Map to confirm the new extent of the school’s self- maintained areas.
  10. 10. 10 III. DESIGN PRINCIPLES (Adapted from: Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation, by Sharon Danks; © 2010 New Village Press) GETTING STARTED Initially, it is best to develop small, portable and/or temporary schoolyard projects to harness community energy and identify interested stakeholders. If initial efforts seem promising, follow these steps to grow the program: 1. Form a green schoolyard committee. Include teachers, parents, and community stakeholders who have the skills to organize, build, plant, and integrate the desired projects into the school curriculum. 2. Visit other green schoolyards. Education Outside has a self-guided tour of SFUSD green schoolyards and can make introductions as necessary. 3. Choose a site. See the next section for site selection tips. 4. Obtain approval from the principal. Make the case by referencing other SFUSD green schoolyards and discussing their educational benefits. 5. Engage teachers before parents. Teachers are the ones that will have to live with the consequences of design decisions, and they also have the power to use or ignore the new schoolyard project. 6. Involve students. Even the youngest students can be involved in the design, implementation, and stewardship of schoolyard projects. 7. Dream big but start small. Develop a vision for the entire schoolyard but implement projects in stages. This will allow teachers to incorporate new projects into the curriculum, promote the development of solid maintenance protocols, and keep fundraising manageable. 8. Integrate the project into the curriculum. Use the schoolyard to demonstrate in-class concepts and piggyback off outdoor elements (fruit trees, pollinator gardens, water features, etc.) with in-class curriculum. 9. Plan for stewardship. Empower students, teachers, and families to share in the process of maintaining the school grounds. Buy child-sized tools. Celebrate milestones and achievements. 10. Raise funds. Contact local community organizations and businesses to raise funds for the project. Education Outside also has a list of available grants. 11. Take time to plan. Two semesters are needed for gathering community input, conducting research, sketching ideas, and reviewing plans. 12. Document the design, construction, and work days. Show progress on community/school bulletin boards and record designs and decisions so an ever-changing school community knows what came before. 13. Never finish. Continued development of the green schoolyard keeps an ever-changing cast of stakeholders engaged in the green schoolyard program.
  11. 11. 11 SITE SELECTION  Identify underserved spaces to determine if the green schoolyard project can turn them into more appealing and useful resources.  Locate green schoolyard projects close to classrooms for easy access and/or close to elements that are ideally suited for outdoor education (creek bed, rainwater tank, native habitat, etc).  Pick a location that has access to water and a good amount of sunlight.  Choose a site that is visible but not in the way of existing schoolyard activities (PE, ball play, fire/maintenance lanes, etc.)  Consider sloped areas as an opportunity to create contours.  Remove asphalt if budget and site constraints allow. SENSE OF PLACE  Consider fencing off the green schoolyard in order to define the space and prevent damage from adjacent activities.  Install visible entrance markers, and use memorable structures, student artwork, and/or murals to personalize the space.  Provide areas for quiet/creative play away from active ball areas.  Create comfortable spaces by providing trees, shade protection, rain shelters, and a variety of seating opportunities.  Use signage to make students and visitors feel welcome and to describe the various schoolyard elements.  Vary the widths of pathways to change the speed with which different parts of the schoolyard are explored, maintaining ADA access as required. SCHOOLYARD ELEMENTS  Let the site conditions inform the choice of schoolyard elements (solar orientation, wind, fog, native vegetation, etc.).  To save resources and space, everything in green schoolyards should serve more than one purpose (i.e. walls as benches, trellises for shade, etc.).  Ensure that outdoor classrooms provide seating (i.e. straw bales, stumps, benches) for an entire class and that classroom elements are connected to the curriculum.  Create opportunities for natural and creative play by adding nooks and crannies as well as three-dimensional features.  Grow fruits & vegetables in the garden to teach kids about food systems and introduce them to healthy eating habits and new foods.  Create outdoor kitchen areas with sinks, tables, and other amenities needed for food preparation.  Include moveable elements (stumps, rocks, gravel, pine cones, etc.) that allow students to create and shape their own environments.
  12. 12. 12  Choose plants that provide food, create habitat, foster imaginative play, or excite the senses. ECOLOGICAL FUNCTIONS  Nurture the soil to create a living ecosystem and promote healthy plants.  Use drought-tolerant plants for non-vegetable gardens and consider rainwater catchment systems for watering vegetation.  Provide food, water, cover, and nesting places to create wildlife habitats.  Allow water to flow back into the ground: remove pavement, store stormwater in ponds/bioswales, and minimize non-permeable areas.  Select building materials that are local, sustainable, healthy, natural, and/or salvaged (APPENDIX IV).  Reuse materials on site to minimize waste wherever safe and possible.  Use solar or wind energy to power fountains, pond circulation pumps, and lighting.
  13. 13. 13 V. SCHOOLYARD ELEMENTS Alphabetical Listing ACCESSIBILITY In-ground planted areas, raised planter beds, pathways, seating areas and other garden features shall be laid out and designed to provide access for students with disabilities, in compliance with ADA, Title 24, and Chapter 11 of the California Building Code (CBC). It is therefore required that any green schoolyard designs be reviewed and approved by the District Architect to ensure they meet all legal requirements (vis-à-vis handrails at stairs, pathway slopes, gates, work tables, seating, hardware, fire lanes, etc.). After construction, the school community shall be responsible for ensuring that these areas remain unobstructed. ANIMALS More and more schools are interested in incorporating animal husbandry (rabbits and chickens) into their green schoolyard programs. When doing so, care should be taken to properly safeguard animals from local predators and heat. Provisions must also be made for removing waste matter and picking up uneaten feed to prevent rodents. Finally, it is important to create a plan to care for the animals during the summer. Because of the complexities associated with setting up pens, schools must consult Education Outside to find out about available resources and necessary approvals. More info: francisco-health-code-for-keeping-chickens-and-ducks ASPHALT AND CONCRETE SURFACES Asphalt may only be removed by the District or licensed contractors. The asphalt must be tested for hazardous material prior to removal and must be disposed of properly. The location of asphalt or concrete removal must be approved by the District Architect to ensure that drainage does not cause site problems (undermining building foundations, water penetration, etc.). Asphalt or concrete can be removed below planter beds only if the above conditions are met. COMPOSTING Composting has the potential of teaching students about ecology and providing a rich source of nutrients for a green schoolyard. On the other hand, it can attract rodents and other pests and lead to moisture problems. It is therefore critical to keep food scraps out of outdoor bins, place any compost areas at least 20 ft. from nearby buildings, and to tend to the material regularly.
  14. 14. 14 The preferred method for containing compost is to place it in a bin or drum. However, schools new to composting may want to consider starting with vermicomposting (worms) or requesting a compost delivery from Landscaping. It is also highly recommended that any school with a compost pile send representatives to the Garden for the Environment composting training ( To have compost delivered to a school site, see Compost & Mulch Deliveries (RESPONSIBILITIES). Green waste that exceeds the capacity of any on-site compost piles can be removed via the City’s green cart service or picked up by Landscaping (see Yard-Waste Pick-Up in RESPONSIBILITIES). DELIVERIES Pre-approve all deliveries, including quantity and location, with the school principal before arranging for drop-off. Soil, compost, and wood chip piles must not impede fire lanes and should be at least 10 feet from buildings to minimize rodent issues. See Compost & Mulch Deliveries (RESPONSIBILITIES) to have Landscaping deliver either material to a school site. DONATIONS Local donations and salvaged materials are a wonderful way to stretch the green schoolyard budget, but they come with risks. Donated plants may not be a desirable species and may not last very long due to prior stress. Trees may be stunted or diseased. Building materials (lumber, tree rounds, logs, art supplies) may contain unwanted pests or unhealthy chemicals. It is therefore best not to issue an open call for donations from the school community and to retain the ability to reject any offered items. Furthermore, it is important to ensure that any donated or salvaged supplies meet the same high standards as new ones, as outlined in this document and APPENDIX IV. Usually, it is best to get advice from experts before accepting donations (e.g. asking FUF about the quality of donated trees). Another option is to visit reputable resellers like Urban Ore (Berkeley) and Building Resources (San Francisco). FENCING Fencing may serve to delineate a garden or protect a green schoolyard area from adjacent activities. On the other hand, it reduces the accessibility of said spaces and should therefore be considered carefully. Any fencing needs to be approved by the District Architect and all materials may only incorporate safe and approved materials (APPENDIX IV).
  15. 15. 15 GREENHOUSES All greenhouses need to have an area less than 250 square feet, should not contain glass, and must be approved by the District Architect before ordering. IRRIGATION Having a source of water near planted areas is an essential part of a green schoolyard. Rainwater harvesting can serve this role if the size of the harvesting system (and weather) meets the water demands of the green schoolyard. In general, however, a hose bibb or permanent irrigation system is required. Unfortunately, many existing irrigation systems on SFUSD campuses have been capped because of holes or breaks in the lines. It is therefore essential that schools interested in starting or expanding a green schoolyard ensure that there is a working water source near their desired green space. Hose bibbs that do not work indicate either a broken line or the lack of a legally-mandated back-flow prevention device to protect the public water system from contamination. In either case, it is unlikely that the irrigation line will be activated soon. However, it is worth having the principal submit a work order to fix any broken hose bibbs to see if this is a realistic option. A water-conserving drip irrigation system is a cost-effective alternative to sprinklers, which must constantly be readjusted to avoid spraying on pathways and buildings. Drip systems are also easier to install and maintain than permanent irrigation systems. Drip irrigation should be designed and maintained to decrease opportunities for vandalism by covering drip lines and emitters with mulch or similar ground covers. The system should also be monitored on a regular basis to check for leaks, prevent overspray, and to ensure emitters are in working order. Since they tend to clog fairly easily, it is the school’s responsibility to check these systems regularly. All permanent irrigation systems must include a backflow preventer and be pre- approved by the District Architect and Plumbing prior to installation. These kinds of systems should ONLY be installed by qualified irrigation personnel, and as- built documents should be delivered to the District Architect’s office. Sprinkler clocks and irrigation controllers must be easily accessible and in plain view, and AT LEAST two members of the school community should be trained on their use. LEAD Almost all soil in San Francisco is contaminated with lead from pre-1978 paint and/or leaded gasoline emissions. The SF Department of Public Health has designated 80ppm (parts-per-million) as the maximum allowable lead content for exposed soil for children six and under. Therefore, imported materials (soil, amendments, mulch, etc.) and soil that will be disturbed as part of new plantings or landscaping must be tested for lead and other heavy metals (CAM-17).
  16. 16. 16 Contact SFUSD Environmental Health at (415) 241-6226 for guidance in obtaining these tests. MATERIALS (ALLOWABLE) When choosing materials for the green schoolyard (hoses, pipes, garden beds, planting boundaries, tool sheds, decking, etc.), schools should make every effort to avoid dangerous or toxic chemicals. Reference APPENDIX IV for a list of approved materials before purchasing supplies. Please notify Education Outside if toxic products are currently on the schoolyard, and efforts will be made to remedy the situation. MOSQUITO CONTROL Mosquitoes transmit several serious diseases and can be a health hazard. Various public agencies, including the Department of Public Health, are concerned about mosquito control in green schoolyards, and occasionally sample school water features to check on larvae populations. There are several ways to avoid growing unwanted populations of mosquito larvae (wrigglers) in green schoolyards. 1. Mosquito Dunks: Dunks are a form of bio-control that uses bacteria (Bt - Bacillus thuringiensis) to control mosquito larvae. Dunks are considered non-toxic and do not affect vertebrates. They may be purchased at most hardware or garden stores. 2. Gambusia Fish: These fish (aka mosquito fish, minnows, or guppies) eat mosquito larvae. In order to keep fish populations healthy it is necessary to treat the bromine in City water and make the water element deep enough to allow fish to dive when predators threaten them. Check with Education Outside to determine appropriate pond depths. 3. Pond Pumps: A pond pump that agitates the water surface (e.g. a fountain) will keep mosquito from breeding in ponds. Larvae require still surface water to survive. In addition to monitoring ponds, it is important to store empty pots and vessels upside down in order to avoid collecting standing water and to check storage areas frequently. MULCH Mulch, a protective soil covering, is ideally made from wood chips and plant matter (straw). School sites should be careful about accepting donations of locally chipped tree prunings or wood chips from tree trimmers as these materials may contain invasive weed seeds, plants, plant diseases, pests, splinters, and even trash (old nails, sharp plastic, paint). In addition, mulch pieces should be of a size that does not blow away if the wind picks up. It is best to find a reputable mulch-provider through Education Outside or other school garden programs, let the company know that materials are being used on a schoolyard
  17. 17. 17 where children are present, and inspect the mulch for splinters before it is delivered. For delivery logistics, see Deliveries in the RESPONSIBILITIES section of this document. MURALS & TILE All murals must be cleared with the principal before beginning work. The artists for all murals and other permanent artwork are required to sign a release with the District’s Real Estate Department prior to installation. The artist must waive their copyrights to the mural or art piece and assign ownership to the District. Mural maintenance is the responsibility of the school site. OUTDOOR CLASSROOM The following elements are STRONGLY ENCOURAGED in outdoor classrooms: 1. Seating Area: a place for the entire class to congregate comfortably while focusing attention on the teacher 2. Instructional Writing Surface: a weather-protected white or chalk board 3. Prep Area: a table or flat surface that allows students to prepare harvested vegetables or study plants from the schoolyard 4. Sink: ideally integrated into the prep area 5. Shade: trees, a retractable screen or trellis over the outdoor classroom area encourages its use during rain or shine PLANTER BEDS Planter beds are an excellent way to experiment with outdoor greening at school sites without an existing green schoolyard. They are also a great alternative to in- ground planting if asphalt can’t be removed due to toxicity (see Asphalt) or because school modernization/construction work is still proceeding. Planter beds are also a useful way to raise beds for ADA access or simply to provide variety and depth to a schoolyard. Planter beds must be made of non-treated lumber or non-composite plastic lumber. Trex© and similar products are not allowed because it is not recyclable and may contain treated wood fibers. The exact location of any planters should be cleared with the principal, who should check with the District Architect to make sure exit routes and fire access are not compromised. Where asphalt is not removed, planters should be placed on footings to raise them off the ground for drainage. PLANTING GUIDELINES (See Also “Trees”) The following will help to avoid future maintenance problems associated with the choice of species and location of plants, but it is not meant to be exhaustive. For more guidance, consult Education Outside or:  Plants for Play (Robin Moore)
  18. 18. 18  Plants of the SF Bay Region (Linda Beidleman and Eugene Kozloff)  Golden Gate Gardening (Pam Pierce)  Sunset Western Garden Book (most recent edition) 1. Plant only in green schoolyard areas. Plant in those areas designated in the Green Schoolyard Map submitted at the beginning of each year. 2. Submit plant lists to Education Outside for input. In order to make sure selected species are appropriate for a schoolyard, plant lists should be sent to Education Outside for review and to coordinate approvals. For big projects, these lists should be part of the submittal to Simon Reyes, District Architect (p.5). 3. Maintain an 18-inch clearance from buildings. This allows painters, window washers, and other maintenance personnel access to buildings. 4. Plant edibles or drought-tolerant plants. If not planting food gardens, drought-tolerant and/or native plants MUST be used. 5. No vines on buildings or exterior fences. They restrict visibility, allow rodents access, and can lead to moisture/mold issues if not properly maintained. 6. Do not plant on lawns. It is hard to mow without damaging plants. 7. Keep utilities and standpipes clear. Do not plant within 3 feet of electrical boxes, gas/water meters, buried utility lines, backflow preventers, or standpipes. 8. Develop a community stewardship plan. See Appendix III for a template. The following plants MAY NOT be planted in green schoolyards: 1. Ornamental plants that require a lot of water, including but not limited to lawns and many tropical plants. 2. Invasive plants, including ivy, pampas grass, and running bamboo. These species threaten the local ecosystem. See: 3. Problematic trees (see Trees below): Eucalyptus, Monterey Cypress, Monterey Pine, and Sycamore The following plants should be planted WITH CARE: 1. Plants that are poisonous or may cause allergic reactions. See: 2. Plants with substantial thorns, including but not limited to Bougainvillea, Berberis, Pyracantha, and spiny cactus varieties PONDS Ponds and other water features are a wonderful addition to a green schoolyard, but they require careful design and long-term maintenance. Water features must be aerated, drain properly, or, if there is standing water, must be treated to
  19. 19. 19 prevent mosquitoes (see Mosquito Control). Ponds should not exceed depths of 18 inches. To reduce the possibility of future problems, all water installations and related equipment (pumps, solar panels, etc.) must be reviewed by the District Architect. RAINWATER HARVESTING Rainwater harvesting is a great way to stretch municipal water supplies and to teach students about the water cycle and conservation. The District strongly encourages the use of large cisterns for rainwater collection to minimize the increased potential for leaks inherent in daisy-chaining multiple smaller units together. Wherever possible, overflow from the cisterns should be directed into permeable areas so as to maximize the stormwater diversion potential of the system. All rainwater harvesting installations must be approved by the District Architect before installation. To begin this process, reference the Tap the Sky information in Appendix V and submit a rainwater harvesting application and supporting documents to Education Outside, including rainwater-specific Maintenance Agreement. Regardless of the complexity of the system, training and ongoing system maintenance are both essential for maintaining effective operation and required by the District. This includes: 1. DEBRIS: Keep gutters free of debris, especially leaves, during the fall. Inspect and clear gutters, down spouts, and screens on a regular basis, especially after rain events or if your system is near a tree. 2. CONNECTION POINTS: Check for leaks on an ongoing basis and fix as necessary (tank, pipes, valves, tank lid, and downspout). Make sure pipes are not bent, broken, or disconnected. Also check your tank and base for any settling and cracking. 3. ANNUAL TANK FLUSHING: Drain and wash out the rainwater cistern once a year before the rainy season begins: i. Add 1 gallon of vinegar into empty tank. ii. Spray bottom of tank (where dirt settles) forcefully with hose. iii. Open drain spigot and direct vinegar solution to storm drain. iv. If you have a filter, clean it with warm soapy water or rinse well. v. If you have a first flush diverter, make sure it drains automatically 4. DRAINAGE: Ensure that excess water (overflow) does not puddle/pool and that it drains away from buildings into pervious terrain/gardens (preferred) or storm drains (less desirable). 5. SIGNAGE: Provide conspicuous signage indicating that water in the collection tanks is not potable. Incorporate signage that explains the system to visitors and students. Indicate on the tank that it contains rainwater!
  20. 20. 20 6. USE RAINWATER IN WINTER: Use rainwater on a regular basis during the winter rainy season so that as much as possible is diverted from the storm water system. Go beyond the capacity of the tank by moving more water through the system. 7. INCORPORATE SYSTEM INTO OUTDOOR CLASSROOM: Incorporate rainwater into ongoing garden activities so that the system is consistently in use and problems are more readily identified and mitigated. 8. WORKDAYS: Include rainwater system maintenance in annual PTA/school community workdays, such as fall and spring clean-ups. 9. REPORT CONCERNS: SFUSD sites should report any maintenance concerns that cannot be addressed by the site to Education Outside. The school community is required to maintain any and all elements of its rainwater harvesting system whether or not the system is in use. 10. PASS THE TORCH: Communicate site-specific system information related to the school’s rainwater harvesting system to future users so that knowledge is passed down as experts move on. SALVAGED MATERIALS See Donations and Materials. SHEDS & STORAGE All green schoolyards should have a secure space on the school grounds to store tools and materials in a clean, safe, and organized way. The storage area should not be a mechanical room, where equipment and electrical panels might be obstructed. They should also not be placed on school lawns or next to a fence or building that will give someone access to the roof or school site. Tool sheds should be kept under 250 square feet and must be pre-approved by the District Architect to ensure size, construction, and location meet District standards. SIDEWALK GARDENS Sidewalk gardens are a wonderful way to improve stormwater retention and beautify our schools. However, they come with some added complications since sidewalks are under the purview of the SF Department of Public Works (DPW). Any school that wishes to install sidewalk gardens will need to work with Education Outside to navigate the permit process and get feedback about plant species from the SFUSD Landscaping Department. Schools will also need to Develop a plan to maintain these areas and add them to the site’s Green Schoolyard Map. SIGNAGE Signs should be posted on stakes or attached to schoolyard fencing. Signs should not be drilled into walls or other school structures. SINKS
  21. 21. 21 Sinks may be installed in outdoor areas of the school, and are highly encouraged for outdoor classrooms. The water source can be permanent or the sink can be connected to a food-grade hose. For safety reasons, hoses cannot run over pathways or other walkways. All sinks need to drain into a catch basin. SOIL Soil enriched with fertilizer and organic materials stimulates plant root systems to go down deep and to spread out, and the resulting plants are stronger, sturdier, and better able to withstand disease, heat and drought. Compost serves as a good source of organic material, while sewage sludge may contain high levels of certain metals and is best avoided in food-growing areas of green schoolyards. TOOL SHEDS See Storage. TREES (GENERAL) Trees provide shade, reduce the heat island effect, and soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they grow. However, they can also be a maintenance headache when not properly chosen and cared for. Thus, it is important to consider the following: 1. Tree planting must be coordinated with Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF;, which will obtain approval from Landscaping for the number, location, and species desired. 2. Trees that grow to be taller than 30 ft. should be avoided. 3. The following trees should not be planted due to the issues identified: a. Eucalyptus: contain highly flammable oils, are a structural hazard due to canopy growth without root stability, and are too tall for practical maintenance b. Monterey Cypress: susceptible to pine canker, grow too large, and are better planted in forests c. Monterey Pine: too large for use outside of a forest d. Sycamore: fuzzy coating on the bark can cause general throat irritation and reactions in kids with asthma 4. Trees should be placed so the mature canopy will not brush against buildings or grow into overhead wires (minimum 3-4 ft. from building). 5. Trees should be planted a logical distance from fences so that the mature trunk and canopy will not interfere with a fence or its maintenance. 6. Trees should not be planted over/near water lines. 7. Trees that shed their leaves should not be placed where they will drop debris into drains or gutters. It is the responsibility of the site, and not the custodial staff, to clean up leaves and other debris from the play yard unless prior arrangements have been discussed.
  22. 22. 22 8. School communities should be prepared to water new trees weekly for the first 2-3 years. 9. Sidewalk trees should be of a variety that is not likely to raise concrete or asphalt surfaces or grow into overhead wires. 10. Sidewalk trees require a permit from the Department of Public Works, which will be coordinated through FUF. 11. Sidewalk trees should be added to the site’s green schoolyard map and the school must have an up-to-date maintenance agreement on file with Education Outside. 12. Tree basins should be cleaned regularly to remove feces, broken glass, or other trash. TREES (FRUIT) Landscaping appreciates the fact that fruit trees can be an important part of the school nutrition program and supports the planting of fruit trees. However, recognizing that fruit trees can invite rodents onto the schoolyard and require constant harvesting during the fruiting season, this support is only extended under the following conditions: 1. Only DWARF or SEMI-DWARF species of fruit trees are allowed. 2. All fruit trees must be planted in green schoolyards and not sidewalks. 3. The ground under fruit trees must be left bare to minimize rat problems. 4. The school is responsible for keeping fallen fruit off the ground. 5. Tree planting should be coordinated through FUF using the same process outlined for all trees above. WATER FEATURES See Ponds. WEED BARRIERS Organic materials such as cardboard or burlap bags make an effective weed barrier as long as they are covered by 4-6 inches of compost and/or mulch to keep them in place and to prevent a potential fire hazard. Weed cloth, on the other hand, is NOT ALLOWED. It may reduce the growth of weeds initially, but as soil builds up on top of it, volunteers have a new place to take root. It is also prone to breaking apart and/or becoming exposed. More importantly, soil permeability suffers as it becomes clogged with material, minimizing the stormwater management benefit of unpaved schoolyard areas. Finally, replanting a garden is significantly more difficult if weed cloth is in place below the topsoil. WOOD For a list of approved wood types to use for green schoolyard projects, please consult Choosing Materials for a Green Schoolyard (Appendix IV).
  23. 23. 23 YARD WASTE See Composting.
  24. 24. 24 VI. MAINTENANCE (Adapted from: How to Grow a School Garden: A Complete Guide for Parents and Teachers, by Arden Bucklin and Rachel Pringle; © 2010 Timber Press) The school garden is an outdoor classroom where students learn by doing. Many school garden coordinators and parents make the mistake of burdening themselves with much of the “heavy lifting” when it comes to garden maintenance, thereby depriving students of numerous opportunities to plant, compost, mulch, feed the worms, weed, water, make signs, hunt for pests or build a trellis. There is pleasure in hard work, and with it comes a sense of ownership. Every school with a green schoolyard must sign a Maintenance Agreement (Appendix I) as outlined under Responsibilities in order to understand green schoolyard maintenance expectations and responsibilities, and to avoid misunderstandings about who is responsible for what. Gardens are living systems that thrive with consistent and regular care. Each garden is unique but the following is a guide to general tasks that should be carefully considered: DAILY:  water seeds and seedlings  ask students to inspect the garden to make sure it is free of litter  bring students into the garden for lessons and to serve as stewards of their garden WEEKLY:  water established fruit trees in the dry season  water all plants in containers or raised beds in the dry season  remove all dropped fruit from fruit trees (summer/fall)  empty standing water in buckets, basins, etc in order to remove mosquito breeding opportunities.  check ponds for mosquito larvae and purchase mosquito dunks or mosquito fish to remediate.  inspect compost piles for evidence of rodents MONTHLY:  check garden for any construction or repair needs  anticipate seasonal changes (watering needs, etc.) and plan accordingly  meet with Garden Committee and plan for changes & upgrades to garden
  25. 25. 25  fix problems as they occur so gardens don’t become a burden for the district or an eyesore for the community YEARLY:  plan a minimum of 2 parent workdays per year to perform complex tasks  plan an end of the year garden party to build community support for the garden project  prune fruit trees (winter)  inspect pond pump, clean filters, and perform regular maintenance.  examine and rinse out the rainwater cistern (see Rainwater Maintenance Agreement, Appendix V, for details)  organize the tool shed for easy access to supplies- recycle, compost or remove unnecessary items SUMMER MAINTENANCE: School communities are concerned about how to keep a garden thriving over the 11 weeks of summer vacation in SFUSD. Below are some ideas on how to keep things going. Remember, a garden is a living system, and each year can be different from the next. An outdoor classroom will be ever-changing, ever- interesting, and very likely vastly different one year to the next. 1) At the end-of-the-year garden party, sign up 11 families that will each commit to caring for the garden for one week during the summer. Conduct a simple workshop on how to tend the garden. Families will harvest produce that ripens during the summer, and in return, will water and tend the garden. 2) Ask students to put the vegetable garden “to bed” during the summer months. Students will layer beds heavily with mulch, water them well and let nature take its course. Annuals will die, but beds will be teeming with (good) soil critters in August when school resumes. Ideally someone will come in a few times to water the beds during the summer. Trees and perennials will need a bit more care, but as long as they are established and not in containers- they will survive a summer of benign neglect. They will greatly appreciate a monthly soaking.
  26. 26. 26 VI. APPENDICES I. Maintenance Agreement II. Sample Green Schoolyard Map III. Sample Community Stewardship Plan IV. Choosing Materials for a Green Schoolyard