Schoolyards – ways to implement gender mainstreaming

View in a schoolyard with climbing frame, trees and a seat.

Surveys on utilisation of public space have revealed stark differences between girls and boys. There are few studies as yet on schoolyards yet they too show that girls use these open spaces mainly to interact socially while boys are more interested in physical activities.

Room for every movement

Experts recommend that girls do more exercise for healthy physical development. Risk behaviour and dealing with aggressions are more relevant for boys. Boys have more accidents and are more often involved in conflicts resolved with physical force. Favourite pastimes for girls in the schoolyard include climbing and gymnastics, playing tag, Chinese rope skipping, ball games, chatting and role play. Boys prefer football, climbing, playing tag and show fighting.

Few schools in Vienna have generous open space to call their own. It is all the more important to use the space available wisely and establish rules for fair utilisation.

Suggestions for designing and fitting out open space

  • Ball courts must be more than “football cages” to accommodate all kinds of ball games, such as volley ball or basketball, they must take different shapes, have fewer fences and different ground marking to attract girls and smaller boys as well.
  • Children have to queue up for individual swings and usually end up pushing and shoving. Bird’s nest swings allow more children to swing at the same time. They are encouraged to play and sit together and to communicate with each other – something girls cherish a lot.
  • Jungle gyms for different skills and climbing levels are particularly popular with boys and their inherent need for exercise. Girls too are keen to climb and test their skills. Climbing towers motivate them to try out more physical activities.
  • Additional options should be offered. Table tennis is a good multi-player game for different age groups.
  • Additional open space for running around can also be used as an alternative ball playing field.
  • Sufficient seating for teaching staff should be provided.


Students, teachers and maintenance staff must all be involved in the planning activities.


Prior to the redesign of a schoolyard at Schule am Johann Hoffmann Platz (in German) in the 12th Municipal District different workshops were held among the students, some of them split by gender and others mixed. Teachers, school wardens, architects and the municipal departments responsible for construction also got together several times for discussions. The time invested proved worth the while and helped to generate new ideas and solutions.

Further information

Contact for this page:
City of Vienna | Office for Gender Mainstreaming
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