Asphalt to Ecosystems

Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation

Foreword by Cam Collyer

Sharon Gamson Danks

Environmental Planner
Bay Tree Design, inc.

Sharon Gamson Danks is an environmental planner and founding partner of Bay Tree Design, inc. in Berkeley, California, a women-owned landscape architecture and planning firm that collaborates with clients to develop lively outdoor spaces including ecological schoolyards.
Danks's schoolyard ecology background includes research, writing, and hands-on design and planning with school communities in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. She has visited and documented over 175 green schoolyard projects in North America, Europe, and Japan over the last ten years. This has helped her develop design guidelines and best practices for green schoolyards and informs her work as an author and designer. Since 2001, Sharon and her firm, Bay Tree Design, inc., have assisted over three dozen schools using a participatory master planning process to help them transform their grounds from ordinary asphalt into vibrant ecosystems for learning and play. The green schoolyard master plans that Bay Tree Design creates follow ecological design principles and reflect each school's unique community, curricula, and site-specific ecology. 

Danks and Bay Tree Design are currently working as master planning strategists for a large green schoolyard program with San Francisco Unified School District. Danks has directed three hands-on schoolyard ecology conferences for the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance and serves on their advisory board. She also serves on the national advisory board for the Community Built Association. In 2008, Danks and Bay Tree Design designed a Sustainable Schoolyard exhibit for display at the US Botanic Garden in Washington DC. She has written a number of green schoolyard-themed articles that have appeared in Landscape Architect Magazine, Orion, New Village Journal, and Green Teacher. She is also the lead author of the Green Schoolyard Resource Directory for the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to a MLA-MCP from University of California, Berkeley, Danks holds a professional certificate in natural resource management from UC San Diego Extension and a BA from Princeton University.

Danks is also the mother of two expert playground testers.