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Discover the why, the how and the what on playground greening. You will be immersed in the theme thanks to the keynotes and break-out sessions given by the experiential experts and specialists.

Be inspired for three days at the international conference "THE NATURAL WAY FORWARD" by academic knowledge, practical cases and meetings with like-minded people. This is the leading event for everyone who wants to work towards a world where playgrounds are green by default. From teachers to designers to academics and policy makers.

Day 1: why are green playgrounds so important?

On the first day, we will explore together why green playgrounds are so important.
In the morning, you will participate in lectures. In the afternoon, you will create your own program from a series of workshops and roundtable discussions offered. In the evening, there is a networking reception where you can meet and chat with like-minded people.

Keynote speakers

Adam Bienenstock (Ontario, Canada) 


Optimal environments for our children: what's new is old, the way nature solves most challenges and the obvious irony of a keynote from a North American perspective


Adam is an internationally acclaimed designer, builder, and researcher of nature-based play spaces, and the founder of Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds. Adam has traveled globally to advocate for children’s rights to nature play, and to collaborate on the creation of spectacular natural parks and playgrounds.  

His resume in the natural playground industry is unparalleled; highlights include creating campuses, training, working on projects for the US Army, Parks Canada and Australia, and City projects for Toronto, San Francisco, Vancouver, Calgary, New York, Austin, Denver, Chicago, and Miami. 

In his lecture, Adam will focus on the benefits of a green playground.

Hans Van Dyck (Earth & Life Institute, UCLouvain, Belgium)


What is the functional habitat of children? Behavioural ecological insights from butterflies to microbes 


Hans Van Dyck (born 1970) is a biologist. As a child, he was already fascinated by small and large animals. In 1997, he obtained his PhD at the University of Antwerp thanks to his thesis on behavioural patterns in butterflies. Since 2004, as Professor of Behavioural Ecology and Nature Conservation, he leads his own research group at the Earth & Life Institute of UCLouvain (Louvain-la-Neuve).

His research focuses on the winners and losers among animals in human-sized landscapes, with butterflies playing a central role. However, Van Dyck also likes to address the general public, writing pieces for newspapers and magazines, holding public lectures and speaking for radio and television.

He emphasizes biodiversity and explains why biodiversity is an important factor to consider when greening your school ground.

Breakout sessions - series 1

Presentation 11: F - Vlaanderenzaal

11.a Outdoor adventurous or risky play at schools: Exploring teachers’ and parents’ views and attitudes - Alexia Sabbe, Vives University of Applied Sciences, Belgium

11.b Beneficial Risk - Anna Ekblad, Naturskolan i Lund, Sweden

Presentation 12: F - Limburgzaal

Outdoor learning: conditions for quality learning - Thomas Remerie and Eef Thoen, Artevelde University of Applied Sciences, Belgium

Presentation 13: A - Haspengouwzaal

Fighting for climate-friendly schoolyard design in Germany; practical experiences of an NGO - Maren Haase, Deutsche Umwelthilfe e.V., Germany

Presentation 14: A - Voerenzaal

Expanding schoolyard forests in the United States to protect children from the impacts of climate change - Sharon Gamson Danks, Green Schoolyards America, USA

Presentation 15: A - Kempenzaal 2

15a The Greening Schoolyard Assessment Tool: a design tool to help stakeholders with creating schoolyards that optimally stimulate children’s development, biodiversity and climate change resilience – Jolanda Maas, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands 

15b The Living Classroom: Facilitation and Design of Outdoor Learning Spaces in SW Ireland - Cathy Eastman, Biodiversity Partners, Ireland

Presentation 16: F - Euregiozaal

16a/b Municipalities with a mission: the similarities and differences between 5 Dutch municipalities with the ambition to create green school grounds.  

a: Experiences of the municipalities - Marlies Bouman, Jantje Beton, The Netherlands

b: Experiences of the schools and neighbourhoods - Ian Mostert, IVN, The Netherlands

16c California: Land of Yosemite and Asphalt - Lisa Howard, Bay Tree Design, USA

Presentation 17: A - Kempenzaal 1

17a Five years of greening in Limburg: facts, figures and lessons learned - Johan Lambrix, Provinciaal Natuurcentrum, Belgium

17b A system of school greening support by MOS coaches - Karel Coenen, MOS/Provinciaal Natuurcentrum, Belgium

17c Biodiversity as an essential part of school greening - Katrien Hendrickx and Joris Verhees, Provinciaal Natuurcentrum, Belgium

Presentation 18: F - Europazaal

18a Network ‘Speelplaats met Toekomst’ – Playground with Future - Gorik Van Helleputte, MOS, Belgium

18b Springzaad – network - Katrijn Gijsel, Springzaad, Belgium

18c Loose parts play with natural materials - Amke Bailleul, Speelmakers, Belgium

Breakout sessions - series 2

Presentation 21: F - Limburgzaal

Adventurous green play environments and safety standards, a (mis)match? - Koenraad De Maertelaere, The European competence center of playground professionals, Belgium

Round table 22: F - Vlaanderenzaal

Green school playground as subject for outdoor education - Tom Gorré, province of Oost-Vlaanderen, Belgium and Asa Wennström, Learning Garden Design, Sweden

CANCELLED - Presentation 23: A - Kempenzaal 1

School greening projects – Results and experiences - Anna Leonard, Goodplanet, Belgium

Presentation 24: A - Haspengouwzaal

An Choill Bheag – Greening school grounds by growing native, biodiverse habitats for people and wildlife - Rachel Geary, Learning about Forests / Environmental Education Unit of An Taisce, Ireland

Round table 25: A - Herkzaal

Participation as a key to sustainable biodiversity on green schoolgrounds - Joris Verhees and Katrien Hendrickx, Provinciaal Natuurcentrum, Belgium

Round table 26: A - Kempenzaal 2

Greening School Grounds + Outdoor Learning: Building A Global Movement - Brenda Kessler, Children & Nature Network, USA

Round table 27: A - Voerenzaal

Unrest in your classroom? Is learning to relax in nature the solution? - Elke Hermans, Yoehee, Belgium

Presentation 28: F - Europazaal

28a Stimulate Nature Connectedness in Flemish Schools - Victor Bruynseels and Gorik Van Helleputte, Duurzaam Educatiepunt and MOS, Belgium

28b B@SEBALL - Biodiversity at School Environments Benefits for ALL - Irina Spacova and Wenke Smets, UAntwerpen and MOS, Belgium

Outside workshop 29:

Soil education Nature school in Lund - Anna Ekblad, Naturskolan i Lund, Sweden

> read more about the breakout sessions on monday april 22

Day 2: how can you tackle the greening of your playground?

On Tuesday, we'll take a closer look at how you can tackle the greening of your playground.
In the morning, you will participate in lectures. In the afternoon, you will create your own program from a series of workshops and roundtable discussions offered. In the evening, you are free to meet other participants during a networking dinner (optional).

Keynote speakers

Arjen Wals (Wageningen, the Netherlands) 


A whole child in a whole school: a relational approach to creating vibrant green ecologies of learning


Arjen is a Professor of Transformative Learning for Socio-Ecological Sustainability at Wageningen University. He holds the UNESCO Chair of Social Learning and Sustainable Development. Wals is also a Visiting Professor at Norwegian Life Science University in Ås where he supports the development of Whole School Approaches & Sustainability.

His recent work focuses on transformative social learning in vital coalitions of multiple stakeholders at the interface of science and society. His teaching and research focus on designing learning processes and learning spaces that enable people to contribute meaningfully to sustainability. A central question in his work is: how can we create conditions that support (new) forms of learning which take full advantage of the diversity, creativity and resourcefulness that is all around us, but so far remain largely untapped in our search for a world that is more sustainable than the one currently in prospect? 

He shows how to get started with nature-based learning on a green playground.

Mary Jackson (Winchester, UK) 


Sharing the Learning through Landscapes approach to school grounds


Mary is Head of Education & Communities at Learning through Landscapes (LtL) and co-founder of ISGA (International School Grounds Alliance). 
Learning through Landscapes is an organisation dedicated to enhancing outdoor learning and play for children. LtL does this through three avenues:  

- Advocating the benefits of outdoor learning and play at school and pre-school. 
- Inspiring and enabling the design and development of outdoor environments to support children’s development. 
- Inspiring and enabling teachers and early years practitioners to develop the confidence, ideas and skills they need to make better use of outdoor spaces. 

Mary tells how Learning through Landschapes has been greening playgrounds for 30 years in the UK.

Cedric Ryckaert (Kortrijk, Belgium)


Klimaatspeelplaats: how to build a school ground from scratch into a stimulating play, learning and living environment


Cedric is a co-founder of BLES ( This is an expert network of landscape designers, specialists in education and play that transforms school grounds into powerful play and learning environments. They are developing school grounds all over Flanders. They work together with Artevelde University of Applied Sciences and Learning through Landscapes (UK).  BLES is member of the International School Ground Alliance and the Learning Planet Alliance. 

As teacher at Sint-Paulus Primary School in Kortrijk, his focus is on sustainable development themes, outdoor learning and playful learning. In recent years Cedric has worked with the team on the redesign of the school’s playground. The playground evolved from a concrete plain into the Klimaatspeelplaats, a stimulating climate-adaptive play and learning landscape. The project won the New European Bauhaus award as education champions. 

Cedric tells how they approached greening in their school.

Breakout sessions - series 3

Presentation 31: F - Euregiozaal

Designing Natural Play Spaces - Adam Bienenstock, Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds, Canada

Presentation 32: A - Haspengouwzaal

32a An introduction in an International Study Tour - Ian Mostert, IVN, The Netherlands

32b People, Place, Play: How the OPAL Primary Programme is transforming over 1000 school playgrounds and making playtimes amazing - Cathy Prisk, Outdoor People/OPAL, UK

32c Greening Barcelona schoolyards: lessons and work in progress - Filka Sekulova, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya and Marta Vilar, Municipality of Barcelona, Spain 

Presentation 33: A - Demerzaal

Green schoolyard-development for good playing / learning - Kris Van Ingelghem, Belgium

Presentation 34: A - Voerenzaal

Change in program: 34a How to make school lunch breaks at school more enjoyable - Leen Dom, KdG Research, Belgium

34b Public space as the natural extension of (small) school grounds and the importance of partnerships - Carola Püschel, Fundacion Club del Bosque, Chile

Cancelled: 34c Outdoor Environment Assessment of Kindergarten Schoolyards in Bole Sub city, Addis Ababa - Ekram Nasray, Arkhitekton Designs, Ethiopia

Presentation 35: A - Herkzaal

Rummaging in nature - Ingrid Coenen, Provinciaal Natuurcentrum and Gertie Bergmans, Bosjuf, Belgium

Presentation 36: F - Limburgzaal

The Green Oasis project: transforming more than 200 concrete schoolyards into green and climate resilient learning environments - vice-governor Jan De Haes and project manager Bert Hoefkens, Province of Antwerp, Belgium

Presentation 37: A - Dommelzaal

Schoobio: Increasing Biocultural Diversity and Climate Resilience on School Grounds through Student Civic Engagement - Shari Wilson, Project Central, USA

Presentation 38: A - Kempenzaal 1

38a Planning and significance of blue-green infrastructure on schoolgrounds - Birgit Teichmann, Teichmann Landschaftsarchitekten, Germany

38b How supporting climate resilience in Flemish-Brabant schools? - Kristin De Ceuster, Province of Vlaams-Brabant, Belgium

Outside workshop 39:

Involving students in greening your school - Elke Hermans, MOS provincie Antwerpen, Belgium

Breakout sessions - series 4

Presentation 41: F - Limburgzaal

41a The effects of greening schoolyards on children’s general health, cognitive performance, knowledge and appreciation of biodiversity, and (school) well-being - Lore Verheyen, UHasselt, Belgium

41b Unlocking nature's secrets: how green spaces may boost cognitive function, bone density, and health in children and mothers – insights from Limburg - Tim Nawrot, UHasselt, Belgium

Round table 42: A - Voerenzaal

Two peas in a pod? Municipalities and schools work together for greening schoolgrounds - Philippe Plessers, MOS/Provinciaal Natuurcentrum, Belgium

Presentation 43: A - Haspengouwzaal

Significance of preschool grounds greening and opportunities of contact with nature for children – from practices of preschool grounds greening movement in Japan, considering greens from school grounds towards cities and woodlands - Ko Senda, Den-en Chofu University, Japan

Presentation 44: A - Kempenzaal 2

44a The COOLSCHOOLS project: examining the potential of nature-based solutions in school environments from a health and equity perspective - Hayat Bentouhami, Elsa Gallez and Amy Philips, UAntwerpen and VUBrussel, Belgium

44b Planting seeds of change: a call to prioritize the greening of disadvantaged schools - Madeleine Guyot, UCLouvain, Belgium

Presentation 45: A - Herkzaal

45a Play and expression of kindergarten children who became friends with swallowtail butterflies - Ryoichi Samejima, Tsurumi Junior College, Japan

45b Nature experiences on near-natural schoolgrounds – how primary school students interact with nature at recess - Anna Lena Stettner, Ludwigsburg University of Education, Germany

Round table 46: A - Dommelzaal

Overcoming hurdles in crafting and using green school grounds in secondary schools (ages 12-18) - Bieke Geukens, MOS/Provinciaal Natuurcentrum, Belgium

Inside and outside workshop 47: F - Euregiozaal

Natural Nations – Biodiversity in school grounds - Anna Rosdal, Naturskolan i Lund, Sweden

Presentation 48: A - Kempenzaal 1

48a How to keep your green playground green, tackle the challenges of sustainable green management at school - Katrijn Gijsel, Province of Oost-Vlaanderen, Belgium

48b Management of Green infrastructure with your students: learning and fun guaranteed! - Liselotte Bollen, Natuurpunt, Belgium

48c Community Engagement for a Green Change in Schools: Families potential role - Magda Morbey Ferro, APSPE & Movimento Bloom, Portugal

> read more about the breakout sessions on tuesday april 23

Day 3: what does a green schoolground look like?

On the last day of the conference, we will go on several field trips.

We will visit some successful regional school examples and discover together what such a green playground can concretely entail.

Field trip 1: Northern Limburg province, theme: biodiversity

Field trip 2: Central Limburg province, theme: ecological corridors Genk

Field trip 3: Southern Limburg province, theme: participation

Field trip 4: Hasselt, theme: Capitol of the Limburg province

Field trip 5: Antwerp province, theme: Green Oasis

Field trip 6: City of Antwerp, theme: Metropole

Field trip 7: Heerlen and Maastricht (the Netherlands), theme: Schoolyard design

Field trip 8: Luik

> read more about the field trips on wednesday april 24

> register now