Inclusive schoolyards at the 45th Elementary School of Athens

“Inclusive schoolyards” is an educational program with architectural interventions aiming to raise awareness within the school community towards equality and inclusion, focusing on gender, through the study of the schoolyard, which is the first public space a child comes in contact with.

The schoolyard is a dynamic space, it is the first public space within which a child observes the formation of relationships and hierarchies.

The schoolyard is the first public space a child gets involved with. However, exclusion phenomena based on gender stereotypes and hierarchical structures are observed in these areas. By looking at primary schoolyards, about 80% of them are “football-centric” and, therefore, more energetic and confident children, usually boys, occupy most of the yard, while those who desire a less tense activity are displaced to the periphery of the yard, with significantly fewer choices of activities.

The main reasons for this, are the lack of adequate design of schoolyards from the outset, the low involvement of the educational community in the design process of the school spaces, and the absence of gender equality as a factor in evaluating the use of the schoolyard.

The “Inclusive Schoolyards” program seeks to support elementary school communities to understand the dynamics of the yard and redefine its management through the use of participatory methods and tools. The goal is to approach equality, by enhancing the spatial qualities of the yard that respond to a greater variety of children’s needs and desires.

To live equally tomorrow, we need to play equally today!

A schoolyard based on the principles of equality and co-existence can be the first step for a deeper change. Promoting cooperation and mutual respect from the early years of childhood will enable us to achieve a more inclusive, equal and fair society in the long run.

During the 2018-19 school year, a pilot implementation of the “Inclusive Schoolyards” program took place at the 45th Athens Elementary School in the neighborhood of Kipseli. The project was implemented by the teachers Dimitra Gavanas (coordinator) and Ioanna Aggeli with the support of the principal Maria Skoba and the Director of A’ Environmental Education of Athens, Maria Dimopoulou. The pilot was attended by 24 fourth grade students of the school. The program was implemented in the context of the corresponding environmental education program “Schoolyard: a space of education and awareness” and had a total duration of 5 months (February – June 2019).

Based on the pedagogical design, the students who participated:

  • Expressed their likes and dislikes about their schoolyard.
  • Illustrated the existing state of the courtyard with art tools, and afterwards further discussed/analysed.
  • Became familiar with participatory research and planning tools by recording the needs and desires of their fellow classmates.
  • They became aware of equality and inclusion in their yard.
  • They set priorities for improvements and changes in their yard.
  • They developed complex proposals for the yard using visual and architectural tools (collages, sketches, plans, physical model, etc.)
  • Lastly, they presented their suggestions for the yard to the rest of the school community asking for their opinion.

The program is approved by the Institute of Educational Policy of the Hellenic Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs.

→ Read our interview on the newspaper Kathimerini (27.03.2019)

→ Watch the video of the crowdfunding campaign “Inclusive Schoolyards”

Location: 45th Primary School of Athens, Kipseli

Period: February – June 2019

Participants: 24 students of the 4th grade,

the teachers Dimitra Gavana (leading teacher) and Ioanna Aggeli (collaborating teacher), with the support of the school principal Maria Skompa