Asphalt to Ecosystems

Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation

Praise & Reviews

Sharon Danks is the recipient of honors in Communications by the American Society of Landscape Architects in the 2012 Professional Awards for Asphalt to Ecosystems.

“The most comprehensive and usable book. It’s got great ideas that people can actually translate into practice.

2012 Professional Awards Jury

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"From the traditional blacktop and grass fields of most schoolyards, the book describes how playgrounds transform into spaces for growing food and plants, allowing for wildlife, birds and insects, and offering equipment that encourages creativity and collaborative play. The old design only encouraged competition, which often deviated into bullying, but the new design facilitates role-playing, storytelling, and stewardship of the land….This is a great book to offer to teachers, administrators, and school board members." --Penny Peck, ACL BayNews

"Asphalt to Ecosystems does a great job targeting its audience: teachers, students, and community activists... [T]his book lays out a framework for change and supplements it with ample global examples. It is as much a call-to-action as an expose of works, and most definitely a wonderful addition to any elementary school library." —Kevin J. Zhangre:place Magazine

"From Asphalt to Ecosystems is an inspiring, important, and practical resource. Grounded in experience and loaded with photographs to illustrate the concepts, this book is an invaluable tool for all of us who are working to reconnect children and nature where they live, learn and play." —Cheryl Charles, PhD, Co-Founder and President, Children & Nature Network. Co-author, Coming Home: Community, Creativity, and Consciousness

"This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to transform -- or continue transforming -- their schoolyard, park or outdoor community space. It will cause you to look at your children's or student's play space with brand new eyes... and that's a very good thing. Every school administrator and park official should have a copy of this inspiring manual on her desk. "—Anne Nagro, founder of

"Who ever thought that schoolyards could be so much fun and enriching for everyone in the community? All it takes is ongoing community support and involvement at every stage of site-specific planning, funding, construction, and maintenance. Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation is more than an idea book: it will help inspire and guide change." —Jeanna Santangelo, Marinscope: Who ever thought school yards could be so much fun?

"Asphalt to Ecosystems belongs on every school superintendent’s and every state board of education director’s desk so that all children can have the chance to experience learning and playing in dynamic, living environments that inspire them to life-long stewardship." —Illène Pevec, Children, Youth and Environments

"Danks has put together an extraordinary guide to creating, or re-creating, a portion of
the natural world to teach children all those connections that used to be a natural part of growing up." —Marlene Y. Satter, ForeWord Reviews

"This is a beautiful book, loaded with compassion for children and deep understanding of the learning process. It is not just a primer on ecological landscaping in the curriculum, but a blueprint for a greener and smarter curriculum." —David W. Orr, Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics, Oberlin College, author, Ecological Literacy and Hope Is an Imperative

"A groundbreaking and informative book with examples from around the world that will inspire others to create green engaging environments for their children. To educate the next generation of earth stewards we need to immerse them in settings where an ecological viewpoint becomes second nature. Sharon Danks shows us the way." —Clare Cooper Marcus, Professor Emerita, Departments of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, University of California, Berkeley. Co-author, Healing Gardens

"As I was reading this book I realized I wanted to buy boxes of it and send copies off to all officials involved in education at the national and state level—it is that good." —Deborah Dalton, Landscape Architecture Magazine

"The photos are beautiful and plentiful and will be inspiring to any reader. The text is clear and informative. I love the range of projects in every section, from home made with recycled materials to high-end design and landscaping." —Bond Anderson, Sound Play

"I have often seen children's sense of wonder awaken as they find life teeming in a handful of soil or nurture a seed into a healthy plant to be harvested and enjoyed in a delicious meal with their classmates. Sharon Danks’ Asphalt to Ecosystems is a wonderful introduction to the design ideas that can transform a traditional schoolyard into a place where such vital learning can occur, under the wise and skillful guidance of the growing movement of educators dedicated to education for sustainable living."  —Zenobia Barlow, Cofounder and Executive Director, The Center for Ecoliteracy

"If you are looking for ways to make the future a better place, its a great way to start." —Adam Browning, Journalist, Grist Magazine

"Asphalt to Ecosystems reflects the author’s passion for the topic and presents more than a decade of innovative practice interwoven with extensive international field investigation. The carefully crafted text, profusely illustrated with closely observed examples, convincingly demonstrates how ecologically rich environments can serve the triumvirate of children’s play, learning, and education—and the good health of both children and planet. This inspiring book brings together and builds on the work of long time pioneers who share author Sharon Danks’ vision. Those pursuing the same mission are offered an exceptionally valuable tool and a new benchmark of design for educating a new eco-literate generation." —Robin Moore, MCP, Director, The Natural Learning Initiative, North Carolina State University. Co-author, Natural Learning: The Life History of an Environmental Schoolyard

"Danks’ book exemplifies planning's comprehensive approach to design and community engagement. She demonstrates that sustainability goes well beyond green technologies—encompassing the patterns of place and envisioning schools and schoolyards as centers of community." —Jeffrey L. Soule, FAICP, Director of Outreach and International Programs, American Planning Association

"Asphalt to Ecosystems is a wonderful "how-to book" that can serve as a powerful tool in facilitating the reconnection of school age children—and their parents and teachers—back to the wonders of nature and the natural system."  —Ray Mims, Conservation & Sustainability, United States Botanic Garden

"This is the third year for TLN Blog book recommendations, and I have a couple of new ones to add to the list. The first is Sharon Danks' Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation. Although this book is not so much geared to home gardeners, it's so inspiring that it deserves a place on this list. It’s a beautifully illustrated guide for turning the traditional school ground’s slab of asphalt into edible gardens, wildlife habitats, and vibrant creative spaces." —Naomi Sachs, Therapeutic Landscapes Network

"Danks sees the schoolyard as the perfect place to start engaging children with their environment. School gardens are an extension of the “school as a teaching tool,” a microcosm for the potential that schools in general have to impart environmental awareness and stewardship on future leaders. Danks’ book builds looks at the big picture for making a case for school gardens, but then moves into the practical with how to design, build and maintain school gardens on an ongoing basis."—Bill Orr, CHPS Executive Director, CHPS

"Asphalt to Ecosystems is a compelling color guidebook for designing and building natural schoolyard environments that enhance childhood learning and play experiences while providing connection with the natural world."—Michael Levenston, City Farmer News

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