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Book Review: Asphalt to Ecosystems

Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation

Written by Sharon Gamson Danks; Published by New Village Press

Reviewed by Trevor Smith

The transformation of our nation’s asphalt and turf schoolyards into thriving educational and inspirational Green Space sounds like the ultimate “kumbaya” notion. A notion that one might assume would surely suffocate under mountains of red tape. Asphalt to Ecosystems proves that this idea is more than a fuzzy feeling and can become a tangible reality.

Author Sharon Gamson Danks covers the spectrum of schoolyard transformation – from the rationale and benefits of transforming our concrete and asphalt schoolyards to green spaces, to the design, the types of ecosystems, and underlying infrastructure. Danks provides numerous examples of forward-thinking schools all over the world. An elementary school in Sweden repurposes water pipes as raised beds throughout the schoolyard; a Norwegian school uses large boulders for exercise instead of jungle gyms; and a school in California employs solar box cookers.

The book could have shown a great idea possible only in a perfect world, but beautiful photography, lists of resources, and a chapter on infrastructure combine to make the reader want to organize action teams and hold fundraisers. This book is an inspirational handbook for everyone: landscape architect, PTO representative, teacher, parent. I finished the book feeling like I had the answer for the phenomenon Richard Louv’s identified as Nature Deficit Disorder. It will inspire anyone with vision who also believes that our future relies on reconnecting our children to our planet and plugging them into the natural world around them.

About the Author

Trevor Smith is the owner of Land Escapes, a full service ecological landscaping company in the Boston area that specializes in Garden Design, Eco-Rain Recovery, Water Features, Urban Farming, and Living Wall and Green Roof Installations. He also holds the title of LEED Green Associate and teaches and speaks on eco-technologies to the landscape industry as well as to corporations. Trevor currently serves as the Vice President of the Ecological Landscape Alliance and may be reached through his website: