CREAF connects childhood to urban nature

On 18 November, over 70 people attended the online presentation of Green4Children, Transforming schoolyards and City of trees, three initiatives led by CREAF, the Barcelona City Council and BOS+, respectively.
It was a fall, late afternoon Thursday. On a nook of the digital world, more than 70 people came together for the webinar “Schools for a natural childhood to discover new ways to connect children with urban nature.

With a warm welcome by Anna Ramon, communication manager at CREAF, we were introduced to the main themes of the event: what is the role of nature in urban environments? How does it impact children? How can schools be part of the environmental and social transformation of cities?

Pivoting on three areas –research, planning and education–, CREAF, the Barcelona City Council and the Flemish organization BOS+ introduced their proposals: Green4Children, Transforming schoolyards and City of trees.

On the side of research, Corina Basnou, researcher at CREAF, announced Green4Children, a knowledge-exchange living laboratory that combines children’s perspectives and nature-based solutions (NBS) to promote sustainable cities that are resilient to the climate crisis and friendly towards both biodiversity and society.

Corina Basnou

Integrating education, research and dialogue, we invite the educative community to be part of an urban biodiversity and nature knowledge hub that includes children’s perspective.

CORINA BASNOU, Green4Children project coordinator

Corina explained that 21st century children live in hostile and polluted environments with fragmented green spaces and a damaged biodiversity. This means that children lack in opportunities to get in touch with the natural world, to develop an interest in nature, to awaken their sensitivity through experimentation and dirty play. For this reason, CREAF questions us: “What if we place children in the middle of urban planning?

From the urban planning area of the Barcelona City Council, Marta Carranza showed us the “Transforming schoolyards” programme, with CREAF as a monitoring member. This initiative is filling Barcelona’s public schoolyards with nature and new educative dynamics.

According to Marta, schoolyards are vital experimentation places where children can play with no adult intervention and where they learn to resolve natural frictions. Moreover, with Barcelona’s pricey and scarce lands, schoolyards are used by the community outside school hours for socialization, and to promote good health and well-being. To turn schoolyards into climate and co-educational shelters, Marta reinforced the idea that involvement, commitment and a long-term vision are a requirement for the entire educative community.

In the last presentation, Katriina Kilpi and Tine de Kezel, from the Flemish organization BOS+, shared with us the inspirational package “City of trees”. Created for the Sino-European project Clearing House, with the participation of CREAF, this package contains 15 lessons (7 translated into Catalan) so that teachers can integrate complex nature concepts in their subjects. “Everything you do in class, you can do it in nature,” Tine said.

According to Katriina, the goal is to help children reconnect with nature, but not from a utilitarian or controlling point of view, but to build a new relationship with it. Nature allows us to focus, to improve our memory, our creativity and our mood. It relieves anxiety, helps improve social relationships and strengthens our immune systems. In addition, we develop a concern for the environment, a behaviour that can be influenced from a young age if there is frequent contact with the same natural places.

Generating a raging success across multiple sectors, the event not only caught the attention of teachers, schools and students’ families associations, but also of environmental institutions and the scientific community, students, and public and private workers. Thus, CREAF remains an authority in knowledge co-creation and in ecological-social impact.

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