Moraine Township

News of the Township
"Creating & Sustaining Green Schoolyards" Talk October 14

For Immediate Release
Week of September 19, 2010
Contact: Mari Barnes, Supervisor (847) 432-3240 or
Book cover photos and head shots available.


Moraine Township invites the public to attend a free presentation, Creating & Sustaining Green Schoolyards, on Thursday, October 14 from noon to 1:00 pm at the Highland Park Public Library on Laurel at St. Johns Avenues. Two visiting author-experts on eco-design, Sharon Danks and Rachel Pringle, will inspire with practical and innovative ideas. Attendees may bring their lunch; the Township will provide beverages and dessert. Reserve a seat by calling the Township at (847) 432-3240.

San Francisco Bay Area authors of two brand new books — Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation (Danks) and How to Grow a School Garden: A Complete Guide for Parents and Teachers (Bucklin-Sporer & Pringle) — will provide detailed ideas for conceiving, designing and sustaining green schoolyards and school gardens. Following their program, at 1:00 pm, the recently published books by Danks and Pringle will be available for purchase and signing.

Participants will see examples of innovative designs for edible gardens, wildlife habitats, rainwater catchment systems, energy generation projects and a wide variety of creative play areas that transform conventional school playgrounds into living-learning laboratories.

Danks will showcase concepts that engage students in actively appreciating and learning from their environment. Educators and community members will be delighted with the variety of ideas schools here and abroad have been able to implement, far beyond merely planting their own veggies in edible gardens – with applications to math, science, art and more.

The presentation will also address nuts and bolts ways to engage administrators, school staffs, parents and community-at-large in supporting the movement to green schoolyards. Pringle will provide in-depth information and advice about school gardens, including how to secure support from administrators, raise money, build a kid-friendly garden, manage volunteers, and ensure a smooth transition at the beginning of each school year.

Their joint lecture will include a slideshow with colorful photographs of green schoolyards and school gardens in the United States and abroad.

Sharon Gamson Danks was raised in Highland Park, and attended Highland Park public schools. One of the photographed schools in her book is an exterior of Wayne Thomas School, which she attended. Danks and Pringle, residents of the San Francisco Bay Area, will be in town as invited presenters at a conference at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Detailed biographical information for each of them is printed below.

The program is co-sponsored by Moraine Township with North Shore School District 112, Township High School District 113, the Library and Climate Cycle.

Invest an hour. Come away ready to pull back the asphalt and grow a greener community, starting with our schoolyards. Call Moraine Township to reserve your seat at (847) 432-3240.


Sharon Gamson Danks is an environmental planner and founding partner of Bay Tree Design, inc. <> in Berkeley, California, a women-owned landscape architecture and planning firm that collaborates with clients to develop lively outdoor spaces including ecological schoolyards.

Sharon's schoolyard ecology background includes research, writing, and hands-on design and planning with school communities in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. She has visited and documented approximately 200 green schoolyard projects in North America, Europe, and Japan over the last ten years. This has helped her develop design guidelines and best practices for green schoolyards and informs her work as an author and designer. Since 2001, Sharon and her firm, Bay Tree Design, have assisted over three dozen schools, using a participatory master planning process to help them transform their grounds from ordinary asphalt into vibrant ecosystems for learning and play. The green schoolyard master plans that Bay Tree Design creates follow ecological design principles and reflect each school's unique community, curricula and site-specific ecology.

Sharon Gamson Danks and Bay Tree Design are currently working with San Francisco Unified School District on their cutting-edge green schoolyard program. Ms. Danks has directed three hands-on schoolyard ecology conferences for the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance and serves on their advisory board. She also serves on the national board for the Community Built Association. In 2008, Sharon and Bay Tree Design designed a Sustainable Schoolyard exhibit for display at the US Botanic Garden in Washington DC. <>

Sharon has written a number of green schoolyard-themed articles that have appeared in Landscape Architect Magazine, Orion, New Village Journal, and Green Teacher. She is also the lead-author of the Green Schoolyard Resource Directory for the San Francisco Bay Area.

In addition to a MLA-MCP from University of California, Berkeley, Sharon holds a Professional Certificate in Natural Resource Management from U.C. San Diego Extension and a BA from Princeton University.

Sharon is also the mother of two expert playground testers, ages 7 and 10.

For more information, visit the Asphalt to Ecosystems website at

Rachel Kathleen Pringle is Programs Manager for the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance, an advocacy and support organization for school gardens and green schoolyards in San Francisco. Currently, there are over 70 school gardens in San Francisco Unified School District. Rachel is also the Urban School Garden Liaison for Occidental Arts & Ecology Center’s School Garden Teacher Training Program in Sonoma County, California. This five day residential training in the coastal hills of Sonoma is an invaluable resource to gardens around the state and beyond. School teams learn everything from organic techniques to seed saving to how to manage students in the outdoor classroom.

Rachel has worked in the environmental education field since moving to California in 2002.  Her passion for environmental and conservation education led her to work with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, bringing students from the city out to experience their National Parks. Rachel taught in a public school garden for four years, integrating the curriculum into the outdoor classroom and planning community events.

Rachel raised cattle and kept a garden while growing up on a small farm in rural Maine. She earned her Master's degree in Conservation Biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2001.

For more information, consult her book's website


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