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Venice Beach, California, Boardwalk
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Green Spaces

“Green Spaces”

Your Mission

Leave some green, please!

Learn to be a space-saver—a green-space saver, that is. “Green spaces” are places in urban and suburban areas that often are literally green: greenways, parks, gardens, median strips, greenbelts.

Breathing Room

If you’re like most people, you need a little extra space around you. If you share a bedroom, you might have “your side” of the room. On a long car trip, it’s better to have elbowroom so you can stretch your arms than to be packed too tight. What happens if you don’t feel you have “room to breathe,” even outside?

Wild Space

It’s important to have “breathing room” in urban areas. As the world’s population increases, urban and suburban areas grow and expand. There are lots of benefits to living in such areas: job opportunities, a choice of schools, better health care, access to conveniences. And there are drawbacks too, one of which is that people may not be able to find open, green spaces nearby. Green spaces in towns and cities may lack the ecological richness of true wilderness, but they benefit the environment, offer homes and shelter to wildlife, and provide enjoyment and a sense of peace for the people who visit them.

Corridors of open space called greenways are becoming increasingly popular in urban areas. These corridors are managed for conservation and recreation purposes. If there isn’t enough land for a park, people restore rivers, streams, old canals, and railroad tracks as greenways. Greenways often follow natural land or water features, and can link nature reserves, parks, cultural features, and historic sites with each other and with populated areas. Learn more about greenways at the Conservation Fund site (

Mapping the Green Space

Map the green spaces around your school. Your map should include streets, buildings, parking lots, and other features that aren’t “green.” Color developed or paved spaces red, planted spaces green, water blue, and extensive bare or rocky places brown; then add a legend defining the symbols. Walk the area again to verify your map.

Is There Enough Space?

Look at a map of your city or a nearby urban area that shows the city’s human population. Locate the green spaces (parks, gardens, greenways, parkways, wildlife refuges). If the population increases in your area, how might that impact the green spaces in your community?

Keeping Some Space Green

  • Read the newspaper to find out if new developments (new homes, office buildings, a shopping mall) are planned. See if these proposed developments include some green space. If they do not, ask an adult to help you contact the developer. Explain how important green spaces are for people, wildlife, and the environment, and ask if the developer’s plan can be modified to include green space.

  • Creating green spaces is important, and so is keeping them clean. Join a local park’s cleanup day. Volunteer to pick up trash around your school, community center, church, or synagogue.

  • Join your state’s adopt-a-highway program. In many states you can also adopt a stream or adopt a beach.

  • Mapping activity adapted from the 1994 Geography Awareness Week teacher’s handbook. Copyright © 1994 National Geographic Society


    © 2000 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved.

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