COOLSCHOOLS draws upon both academic and community-based knowledge from large metropolitan cities like Brussels, Barcelona, Paris, and Rotterdam. Transformative school interventions involving nature-based solutions for climate adaptation have already been conducted in these regions, meaning that a lot can be drawn from earlier experiences as well. By working in these cities COOLSCHOOLS will interrogate the previously under-explored specificities of each particular context and find common, underlying patterns that point towards potential transformation capacities, especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

The objective of Operation Ré-création, coordinated by Bruxelles Environnement in partnership with Perspective. Brussels, is to create green recreational spaces, which is shared and thus more convivial, during and outside school hours. This initiative is undertaken in response to Brussel’s environmental strategies focusing on soil permeability, water management, reduction of heat island effect, reinforcement of the green network (creation of semi-natural habitats), nature awareness & education, well-being of citizens and children.

The project was initiated in May 2021 inviting schools from official and subsidized education networks, at nursery, primary and/or secondary level, of any type of education and language regime, located in priority areas to apply. This resulted in altogether 62 expressions of interest, 20 of which were finally selected. Each selected school will eventually receive a grant of 250.000€ max.

This project is complementary to the already existing «small grant program» as of 2016 (Ose le vert) that awards small green investment and coaching sessions within schools. Hundreds of schools have already benefited from this grant.

Location of participant schools in Brussels
Location of involved schools in Barcelona

Refugis climàtics (Climate shelters in schools) – Barcelona City Council received funding from Urban Innovation Action (UIA), a European Commission programme, to convert 11 schools currently considered vulnerable to heat into climate shelters open to all city residents by transforming playgrounds through a package of blue measures (incorporating water points), green measures (spaces for shade and vegetation) and grey measures (insulation, ventilation and shading constructions). The project also had an educational approach since children took part in designing climate solutions and evaluated the measures taken.

In parallel, various research centres assessed the results of the intervention from the perspective of health and climate comfort. The Refugis Climatics project received an ERDF subsidy to carry it out from 2019 to 2022.

Transformem els patisBuilding upon the Refugis Climatics project, Barcelona City Council launched a new programme for the transformation of schoolyards to improve both the physical spaces towards climate adaptation and the dynamics and relationships that take place there, with the aim of improving equality through the diversification of play activities. The intention of the programme is to turn schoolyards into community facilities accessible to the neighbors.

Paris - Oasis

The Oasis schoolyards project started in 2018, fostered by the School Affairs Department (DASCO) and the Public building and Architecture Department (DCPA) . It seeks to renew schoolyards by improving the city’s schoolyards thermal conditions, the lack of green areas within the city, and the quality of life and development spaces for the children. It has been implemented in 101 schools as of summer 2022. The intention of the programme is to cover all 770 city’s schools by 2050.

The program engages with the three pillars of sustainability: 1) Environmental (improving green spaces and creating new green areas in the urban space to face heat island effects and climate change, improving the use of various materials and applying the principles of circularity; 2) Social (creating social networks from the school’s community to a larger local scale interaction process, by opening the schoolyards on weekends, and through co-creation and participative interventions during the renewal process; by enhancing social interactions and integration between children of all origins and cultures that converge in Paris through free play schemas and cooperative group actions, improving the teachers and children’s perception and knowledge of biodiversity); and 3) Economical (improving the city’s attractivity and life quality, creating a new model to replicate in other urban areas, presenting a closed-loop or local-providers economical scheme, prioritizing small-scale interactions)

Location of participant schools in Paris
Location of engaged schools in Rotterdam

The programme Groenblauwe Schoolpleinen (GREENBLUE SCHOOLYARDS) was started in 2019 by the Rotterdam City Council, as part of the “green-up the city” and the “Rotterdam Weatherwise” climate adaptation program. In this context the municipality of Rotterdam developed a subsidy program to rework and green schoolyards addressed at all primary schools in town. The criteria for selecting the applicants included contribution to climate adaptation; the quality of greening, play areas and educational purposes; and the degree of motivation and support base at the level of the school.

In 2019 six schoolyards were selected and completed. In 2020 a new round of applications started where six new schoolyards were selected (3 of which were completed). In 2022, 20 schools applied for the subsidy, with 5 or 6 to be selected. The municipality is also conducting participative redesigning of 5 public squares closed next to primary schools, making them more green- and climate-proof so that children can play and learn in a natural environment.

Besides the physical transformations of schoolyards, the pilots serve as a trigger to explore the possibility that green/blue schoolyards are accepted as a common measure in housing and new construction at the level of public policy. GreenBlue Schoolyards has a multidisciplinary team that advises and coaches several greenblue schoolyard projects. 

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