Mary Jackson's Story
Mary Jackson travelled to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand in 2003 to investigate ways in which school grounds can be used to reflect the local environment and culture.
Mary, a teacher and landscape architect, works for Learning through Landscapes (LTL), a national charity whose vision is that every child has access to outdoor learning throughout their education. At the time of her Fellowship, she was working to support schools in England to make the most of their grounds. She was keen to learn about outstanding initiatives in other countries, and use these experiences to provide inspiration at the training and conferences she ran for teachers and school grounds professionals.
On her Fellowship, Mary met with staff from botanical gardens who were enabling schools to learn about native plants and their uses, as well as teaching pupils how to grow crops in their school grounds. She visited schools where artists had worked with pupils to celebrate first nation culture, or where traditional uses of natural materials were explained by their use in the schools’ grounds.
Soon after returning to the UK, Mary used the findings from her Fellowship to develop resources and training offered to schools through LTL. However, the biggest impact from her travels took longer to achieve, but now reaches across the globe.
In 2010 Mary helped to convene a series of conferences which brought together representatives from around the world to exchange ideas and information on developing school grounds. Out of these conferences the International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA) was formed. Since it was established the ISGA has held conferences in Toronto, Indonesia, Sweden and Berlin and further conferences are planned in Scotland and Japan.
The ISGA now has over 500 members from across the world. It is working on ways it can support the design sector to ensure better school grounds for children around the world, and in September 2017 produced a declaration on risk in play and learning that is available in 13 languages. The ISGA also runs International School Grounds Month each May. They provide schools with access to ideas for more than 70 activities to use in their grounds, and these are added to every year.
From the start Mary has been instrumental in the work of the ISGA and she has been elected to sit on the Executive Committee of the alliance which co-ordinates their activities.