Designing Schools for Mental Health Workshop and Symposium

Thursday, October 11, 2018 - 9:00am to 3:00pm
Designing Schools for Mental Health Flyer
Designing Schools for Mental Health Flyer



To convene the mental health, education, design, and environmental communities for a sharing and working session to facilitate school environments that support students’ mental health and well-being.

Who Should Come:

Anyone designing, working in, or caring about school environments and how they can support students' mental health and well-being.

Keynote Speakers:
Dr. William Sullivan expert on design for mental health and Head of the University of Illinois Landscape Architecture Department
Sharon Danks founder of Green Schoolyards American and author of Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformations


Pia Escudero, Director of School Mental Health, LAUSD

Maryjane Puffer, Executive Director of the LA Trust for Children's Health

Albert Grazioli, Asset Development Director, LAUSD

Eileen Alduenda, Interim Executive Director, Council for Watershed Health

Dr. Marcella Raney, Occidental College Professor Researching Student Activity and Behavior


Lead Partners:
Cal Poly Pomona Landscape Architecture

Prevention Institute

Partner Organizations

Amigos de los Rios

Children and Nature Network

Council for Watershed Health

Green Schoolyards America

Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust

Los Angeles Unified School District

Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority

The River Project

Trust for Public Land


If you or your firm/organization would like to help sponsor this event, please donate to the Department of Landscape Architecture here: Mental Health Workshop or contact Claire Latané at clairelatane@gmail.com



8:30-9:00 am             Check-in
9:00 am-12:00 pm     Speakers and Panels

12:00-1:00 pm           Lunch

1:00-3:00 pm             Policy and Funding Workshop (Optional)



Los Angeles area students experience high levels of instability and stress related to urban environmental conditions, family trauma, and neighborhood disinvestment. As an indication of the degree, fifty percent of LAUSD students suffer moderate to severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Design principles to reduce stress and to support students suffering attention deficit, sensory integration, and autism spectrum disorders are remarkably similar -- provide a well-organized, comfortable, calm environment, plenty of access to nature, and small quiet places to escape chaos.

For fifty years, research has correlated access to nature with reduced aggression, reduced crime, reduced stress, and increased social cohesion. In addition to research by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan at the University of Michigan and Drs. William Sullivan, Frances Kuo, and Andrea Faber-Taylor at the University of Illinois, Rodney Matsuoka’s doctoral dissertation on Michigan High Schools related more trees and shrubs, larger classroom windows, open lunch policies, and schools on streets with higher activity levels to reduced student crime (like violence, illegal possession, and vandalism), reduced student disorderly conduct (like insubordination, fighting, and bullying), and more students planning to attend a four-year college. He also found that wide-open sports courts and fields related to higher rates of student crime and disorderly conduct.


After decades of research, this knowledge has not yet reached educators, administrators, the community, or the designers designing schools. We are taking the first step to bring together administrators, mental health professionals, researchers, trauma therapists and specialists, designers, non-profits and the environmental community to work through potential policy changes at the district and state levels as well as funding opportunities to prioritize mental health while achieving co-benefits of physical health, academic success, environmental and social justice, cleaner air, stormwater management, climate resilience, and beautiful, safe school environments.