Hands off green spaces in schools!

December 2, 2021 11:17 am

BirdLife Malta is highly disappointed by plans to build a community centre in the outdoor space within the school grounds of Marsaxlokk Primary. Green spaces in schools have high educational value for outdoor learning through nature and are linked with student mental and physical health, and general well-being. Green spaces in educational settings are associated with higher motivation to attend school and better overall performance and behaviour. Any proposal to rob the children of Marsaxlokk of these benefits is a clear statement about the low status that is afforded quality education, in comparison to other interests.

Suggestions for relocating the uprooted trees to a roof garden to be ‘enjoyed by the public’ totally miss the wood for the trees and reflect an ignorance of the benefits that the green spaces and mature trees are providing for the children of Marsaxlokk’s St Thomas More College Primary School. While the Mayor is right in pointing out that the school grounds are not ODZ-designated, all green school spaces should be considered ODZ in spirit. In line with this we also hope the Mayor will be the first to protest when developments in ODZs are being planned and suggested.

BirdLife Malta joins Marsaxlokk community in call to leave the Primary School garden alone

Panorama of the first ever Dinja Waħda Garden created by BirdLife Malta at Fgura Primary (Photo by Victor Falzon)

BirdLife Malta created its first school garden for nature and learning in 1993 at Fgura Primary under its Dinja Waħda programme and has since supported many other schools in designing and creating such nature-outdoors classrooms on their school grounds. Our education team supports educators in using these spaces to connect children with nature. 

BirdLife Malta Education Manager Stefania Papadopol stated: “As children’s lives have moved indoors, educators have a responsibility to take them outdoors, to enjoy nature and form a bond with it that is missing from their daily routines. Marsaxlokk Primary happen to have an excellent opportunity for taking the curriculum outdoors and it is inconceivable that this gem should be stolen from the school’s young population.”

Entrance to the Reading Garden at Blata l-Bajda Middle School (Photo by Desiree Falzon)
A young Dinja Waħda Ranger points at frogs in the pond at Mrieħel Secondary Dinja Waħda Garden (Photo by Desiree Falzon)

The proposal to build over 920m2 of soil is happening at a time when schools across the globe are witnessing a growing movement to green school grounds and shift the classroom to the outdoors to counter global urbanisation and children’s nature-deficit disorder.

BirdLife Malta has run a number of Erasmus+ projects through which it supported schools to develop their school grounds into spaces where children can connect with nature. As part of our latest project Teach, Inspire and Protect (TIP), our education team is looking at school grounds and teacher attitudes to outdoor teaching. It is clear that educators believe in the benefits of green spaces and are slowly introducing elements of nature-based learning in their practice. However, the physical aspect of school design is not moving in the same direction as the educational philosophy that values connecting children with nature. This can be witnessed by the total lack of nature and green landscaping in all our newly-built schools. Building over Marsaxlokk’s beautiful soft landscaped areas is the final nail in the coffin of a movement away from providing our children with quality green spaces in which to learn.

In view of this BirdLife Malta urges Education Minister Dr Justyne Caruana and Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Plannning Dr Aaron Farrugia to join the outcry against this proposed development in Marsaxlokk. BirdLife Malta supports the Marsaxlokk community in their call to their local council to withdraw the mentioned plans.

Read the Maltese version of the press release here.