Borderland Voices and Practices: The Ambiguity of Children’s Participation in School Grounds Greening

Greg Mannion


Commentators on children’s experience (largely the urban experience of the
developed countries) indicate that publicly accessible open space for children is
being limited due to commercialization, litigation, fear for children’s safety, and
changes in lifestyle. One of these open spaces facing change is the school
grounds. Evidence is drawn from a Scottish based multiple case study of 22
school grounds projects. One finding is that when participation is a project goal,
children can be involved at high levels of decision making and activity but that
adults are seen to maintain a strong gatekeeper role. A typology of utopic
practice is offered with respect to children’s participation in grounds
development. The analysis suggests that different project hopes and
expectations can have multiple, ambiguous, and sometimes conflicting effects for
children—a moot point for proponents of education for sustainable development
who consider the need to address real world issues to be a central tenet.

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