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Nature-based solutions help schools beat the heat

Schools are a great place to start when it comes to showcasing the benefits of nature in cities. Giving students and teachers the opportunity to connect with nature allows them to feel the benefits firsthand and empowers them to take practical steps to help reduce urban heat in their schools.

Funded by the NSW Government through the Climate Change Fund, the Greening Our Cities program aims to lift urban tree canopy coverage to 40% by 2036. It partners with local councils and communities in Greater Sydney to plant and maintain trees in the local area.

School children planting a tree
Photo by Tom Yau

Greening Australia saw the opportunity for schools to become involved in the program and created the Cooling the Schools initiative. They work with schools to connect children with nature through free native tree planting sessions, empowering them to create critical wildlife habitat, reduce urban heat and increase shade in their schools.

School children holding watering cans
Photo by Tom Yau

Greening Australia drew on research by Western Sydney University to identify the hottest 100 schools in Greater Sydney and developed an outreach program with the Department of Education to engage the schools most affected by urban heat. As part of the program, proposed planting sites were assessed and a garden designed with the school’s ground keeper. Once the plans were in place, the Greening Australia team delivered curriculum-aligned planting lessons with the children. Over 3 years, the initiative has worked with 130 schools, engaging with 9,713 students and planting 23,380 trees. 

The initiative gives urban children the opportunity to get their hands dirty and learn about biodiversity and the important role trees have in our environment.

School children and staff walking with plants
Photo by Tom Yau

Cooling the Schools Program Manager, Nicola Masters explains that green learning environments also contribute to young people’s development, through formal structured activities (developing skills in subjects like science, technology, geography and mathematics) and informal play. 

‘These plantings are designed to create cooler, greener, healthier and more climate resilient schoolgrounds, while enabling children to take climate action into their own hands. Seeing the children engage with nature is wonderful and their enthusiasm is inspiring,’ says Nicola.

Aerial view of school
Photo by Tom Yau

The Cooling the Schools initiative is part of a larger project by Greening Australia, which has secured new funding from the NSW Government to plant 200,000 trees over the next 3 years in communities across Greater Sydney.